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^alesfrom ^wo Rivers IV 

^ales from ^wo Rivers IV 

^ales from ^wo Rivers IV 

edited bv John E. Hallwas, and David R. Pichaske 

A Publication of 

Two Rivers Arts Council 

College of Fine Arts Development 

Western Illinois University 

Macomb, Illinois 

Copyright 1987 by Two Rivers Arts Council 
Library of Congress Card No. 81-51362 

The cover photograph and all other photographs in this book are courtesy of Archives and 
Special Collections, Western Illinois University Library. 

The stories contained in Tales from Tu-o Riven, I, II, III and IV were gleaned from manuscripts sub- 
mitted by Illinois authors, over sixty years of age, to annual Tales from Two Rivers Writing Con- 
tests. They are the documentation of real life experiences and are not the result of laborious 
research into the works of other documentors. Therefore, these stories constitute an original 
social history of Illinois in the early decades of the 20th Centurv. 


Jean Akright 

Mt. Sterling, Illinois 

Sue Anstine 
Macomb, Illinois 

David Badger 
Havana, Illinois 

Rossann Baker 
Avon, Illinois 

Jane Boyd 
Rushville, Illinois 

Nancy Butler 
LaHarpe, Illinois 

Burdette Graham 
Macomb, Illinois 

Sharon Graham 
Biggsville, Illinois 

Carolyn Hamilton 
Augusta, Illinois 

Pat Hobbs 
Macomb. Illinois 

Pam Allen 
Carthage, Illinois 

Ann Johnson 
Carthage, Illinois 

Pam Johnson 
Macomb. Illinois 

Audine Jung 
Bowen, Illinois 

Teresa Melvin 
Blandinsville, Illinois 

Dorothy Musick 
Augusta. Illinois 

Jim O'TooIe 
Macomb, Illinois 

Betty Redenius 
Carthage, Illinois 

Randy Smith 
Macomb, Illinois 

Diane Snyder 
Rushville, Illinois 

Bill Wallace 
Monmouth, Illinois 

Ex Officio: 

William Brattain 
Macomb, Illinois 

Jim Butterworth 
Macomb, Illinois 

Gene Kozlowski 
Macomb, Illinois 

Forrest Suycott 
Macomb, Illinois 

Tammie McCormick, Sec. 
Vermont, Illinois 

Helen Thomson, Ex. Dir. 
Table Grove, Illinois 

Mary Graham 
Biggsville, Illinois 

Yvonne Knapp 
Raritan, Illinois 

Carol Yeoman 
Avon, Illinois 



"One of the most mnviiiw aspects of life is how long the deepest memories stay with us." 

Laurens Van Der Post, The Lost World of the Kalahari 

"The next thing like living one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that life . . . made as 
durable as possible by jjutting it down in writing." 

Benjamin F'ranklin, The Autobiography 

Small-town Stuff 

THE WAY IT WAS IN BROWNING Helen Sherrill-Smith 5 

LIFE IN CHECKROW Louise E. Efnor 6 

MEMORIES OF CORNELL, POP. 500 Mildred Norton 8 

SATURDAY NIGHT Burdette Graham 9 










U Encounters ivithlDeath 

III Qood ^inies and "Sad ^imes on the ^a 




A DEATH IN THE FAMILY Martha K. Graham 26 




MY MOTHER'S DEATH IN 1916 Truman W. Waite 31 

A WOOL DRESS FOR MA Evelyn Jennings Korte 32 



TABLE GROVE Esmarelda T. Thomson 36 



MY GRANDPARENTS' FARM Vivian C. Workman 47 

I REMEMBER James B. Jackson 48 



A BOY DOING A MAN'S WORK Robert L. Brownlee 53 

OUR FIRST FARM Vera S. Henry 56 

RECYCLING Marie Freesmeyer 58 

MEMORIES OF MOTHER Hazel Denum Frank 60 


STRAW STACKS AND KIDS Helen E. Rilling 63 

SKUNK CHRISTMAS Dorris Taylor Nash 65 

IV Old^Time Politics 

V hmmo-raiits 



POLITICS IN GENESEO, 1908 Roy B. Popple ton 70 

HARTZELL Billie Hartzell Thompson 71 

FAMILY FEUD Nelle Shadwell 73 


TO REAGAN Keith L. Wilkey 76 

IN CHICAGO Josephine K. Oblinger 79 


OLD-TIME POLITICS Clarence E. Neff 81 





IMMIGRANT Annie Enborg Exalena Johnson 95 

ANCESTORS Effie L. Campbell 97 

KINDNESS L.M. VanRaden 99 

TRAGEDY Wilson M. Baltz 100 

THE TRIP HOME Floy K. Chapman 102 

VI c^rowrid ^ome los 

OUR ALL-PURPOSE ROOM Virginia Dee Schneider 109 

IN THE BOSOM OF THE FAMILY Eva Baker Watson 111 

THE WALLS OF OUR ROOMS Irene Barkon Tinch 114 


MY HAPPY CHILDHOOD YEARS Kathryn Steward Roan 116 

MY DAD AND HIS HANDICAP Grace B. Schafer 117 

THE STOVE Kenneth Maxwell Norcross 118 


VU Old-time Arts and Culture 123 


20th CENTURY Martha K. Graham 127 

THE PERFORMING ARTS -1920s Louise Parker Simms 129 

PAPA AND THE PIPE ORGAN Lois Harry Mellen 133 

CIRCUS TIME Dorothy B. Koelling 135 


DIP TO THE OYSTER Eleanor H. Bussell 138 

THE DANCE OF MY LIFE Robert C. Richards, Sr. 139 

SHOWBOAT! Helen Sherrill-Smith 141 

FLOWERS Florence Ehrhardt 143 
THE LAST DAZE OF SCHOOL, A 1934 COMEDY C. Rosemary Kane 144 

THE QUADRILLE AND THE WALTZ Florence Ehrhardt 145 

MAMA AND MUSIC Vera A. Niemann 146 

THE VICTROLA Lillian Nelson Combites 148 

VICTROLA CLASSICS Harriet Bricker 149 

THE GRAFAPHONE Isal N Kendall 150 

VAUDEVILLE -1926 Audrey Ashley-Runkle 151 

Vlll School HDays 153 




"THE SCHOOLHOUSE IS ON FIRE" Lucms Herbert Valentine 162 

BOX SUPPER AT LOST GROVE Helen E. Rilling 163 

COUNTRY SCHOOL DAYS -THE 1930s Clara Rose McMillin 164 

"I'M BID ONE DOLLAR" Effie L. Campbell 166 


BOARDING AROUND Charlotte Young Magerkurth 169 

ONE-ROOM SCHOOL Mary Cecile Stevens 170 

IX transportation and Communication ns 

MY FIRST AUTO RIDE Alleyne Taylor 177 

TOURING, 1920s STYLE Bemadette Tranbarger 179 

FARM Margaret Sneeden Cockrum 181 

SUMMER OF 1900 Vera Smith Hawks 182 

THE FERRY BOAT Lloyd M. Hance 184 

ROCK ISLAND RAILROAD Glenn Philpott 185 



LISTENING IN Clarissa M. Jahn 188 


X special Memories m 

"A" IS FOR APPLE James B. Jackson 197 



LIVING IN A SOD HOUSE IN 1885 Anna Hughbanks-Jackson 202 


THE BIRTH OF A MEMORY George B. Stuckey 207 

MICKEY Louise Young 209 

SNOW-BOUND, WITH PINOCHLE Robert L. Tefertillar 209 

PLAYING CARDS Floy K. Chapman 211 

FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK Lucius Herbert Valentine 211 

THE SPOOK Wilbert Weitzel 212 

DOCTOR Fern Moate Hancock 214 

HARD TIMES Lydia Jo Huntley Boston 216 

IN LESS THAN THREE MINUTES Blondelle Brokaw Lashbrook 218 

THE DAY ONEIDA BURNED Ruthe E. Seiler 220 

Passages 223 

List oj (Authors 227 

I SmalUtown Stuff 



There are people to whom place is unimportant, but they 
are rare — and probably unhappy. As philosopher George 
Santayana once said, "The human heart is local and finite; it 
has roots. . . ." And, in fact, a person's sense ofidentity springs 
from the place where he lives, or used to live. 

Perhaps no American book conveys that better than 
Spoon River Anthology. Unlike Dante, who put his dead in 
Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, Edgar Lee Masters left his 
departed villagers in the local graveyard. And as their voices 
whisper from the grass, they still view themselves in relation- 
ship to the community. Like the living, they are doomed to 

There is something about the small-town experience 
that makes it especially memorable. Perhaps it is the sense of 
rootedness in a complex but fully comprehensible human 
reality, or what Helen Sherrill-Smith calls "the daily contact 
and involvement with those who live around us," in her mem- 
oir about Browning. After all, the small community offers the 
opportunity for people to interact with each other in a full and 
meaningful sense, to know each other as individuals, for they 
work, shop, socialize, worship, and raise children in frequent 
contact with each other. 

Today's senior citizens can recall when small towns were 
vital economic centers for the surrounding countryside. Local 
culture thrived — at the opera house and the band concerts in 
the park. And every Saturday night was an occasion for social- 
izing, as Burdette Graham points out in his memoir on Table 
Grove. Each town was a little world, isolated by distance from 
the rest of America and rather self-contained. The community 
was like a huge, complex family in that most people knew every- 
one else, and there was a sense of interdependence. Such is the 
stuff of memories. 

But decades of economic difficulty and outmigration of 
young people have made a profound difference. Now there is a 

sense of emptiness in places like Bernadotte, Colchester, 
Kirkwood, Nebo, Plymouth, and Versailles. Although county 
seat towns still do fairly well, the villages around them have 
declined significantly. In much of Illinois the small town is an 
endangered species. 

Ironically, even towns that are maintaining their eco- 
nomic base and retaining their population are often losing 
their sense of community. Helen Sherrill-Smith makes that 
point explicitly in "The Way It Was in Browning," and most of 
the other memoirs in this section imply it. 

With the coming of automobiles and technological 
advances, mobility and individual self-interest have grown, 
while face-to-face contact and community orientation have 
diminished. It is now fairly common for people to live in a town 
but not be engaged with it. That would have been unusual, if 
not impossible, decades ago. 

In Illinois there is a need for public attention to the 
plight of the small town. We must encourage renewal. Vacant 
buildings should be advertised, small businesses should be 
founded, and community-wide activities should be developed. 
In general, we must increase our appreciation for community 
life, regardless of the economic reality. Our small places are 
too important to the lives of their residents. Towns that offer 
meaningful interaction with other people are. after all. the 
very crucible of human selfhood. 

Masters learned this for himself. He published several 
unsuccessful volumes of verse and prose before he started 
writing his famous Spoon River Anthology poems in 1914. It 
was not until he turned to his Illinois memories and started 
singing the specifics of his own past in Petersburg and 
Lewistown that he became a good poet— which is to say, a good 
reflector of the human circumstance. He learned, as many 
other authors have, that the universal is rooted in the particu- 
lar, that there is no poetry of man, only poetry of individual 
men and women in a certain time and place. 

In other words, the famous poet learned that to be 

human is to have context— a place that means something, this section have provided us with images of themselves 

people who matter. And once established, that context tunc- through their recollections of the places that shaped their 

tions within us throughout our lives, as did the small towns of lives. 
Masters's early life. In a sense, the authors of the memoirs in John E. Hallwas 


Helen Sherrill-Smith 

The greatest cost of progress in our small town seems to 
me to be the loss of the sense of community, the daily contact 
and involvement with those who live around us. We cannot 
stop the world from moving steadily on, nor would we really 
want to do so. But the invention of the automobile and the 
increasing ease of access to electricity and to natural gas 
changed our lives immeasurably. 

In those early times, when few people had cars, we 
walked. Going to the store meant seeing, and talking with, and 
observing what was happening to the people of our town. We 
noticed that Aunt Polly had laundry early on the line, so her 
rheumatism must be better today. Mr. Waters is working over 
his potato patch, so he's back from visiting relatives down at 
Pear. Bee is on the front porch, rocking the baby, and I ask if he 
is still cross with teething, and suggest a simple home remedy 
to ease the fever and stomach upset. Walt Dosier is turning his 
team into Aunt Mollie's pasture; we talk about the weather, 
crop prospects, and when the blackberries will likely be ripe. 

Once downtown, I might look at Ed Stambaugh's store 
for yard goods and thread for a new dress, then cross the street 
to Mr. Trone's for meat, coffee and sugar. We bought few fruits 
or vegetables, they were at home, in the garden, the yard, and 
the cellar. Our bakery was our own kitchen, and milk came 
from a nearby farm, so we didn't carry many bags of groceries 
home. Now we go to the supermarket often and come home 
heavily laden. 

The post office was a daily stop, sometimes more than 
once, since passenger trains with mail aboard stopped six 
times daily then. We kept in touch with out of town friends and 
relatives by letter; telephone usage was limited; visits were few 
and far between. Much of our shopping for coats, sweaters, 
things the women of the family did not turn out by use of the 
trusty Singer sewing machine, were ordered from a mail order 

catalogue. These came to the post office too. Waiting for mail 
was a kind of village ritual, with much friendly interchange of 
bits of interesting news items — and sometimes a little 
gossip — from all over town. 

In every season except Winter, much of our time was 
spent outside the house while doing our daily work. To do the 
laundry meant carrying in coal and kindling to heat the water, 
which had to also be pumped and carried. Wet laundry was 
taken outside and pinned to the lines, carried in again when 
dry. Work was done in the garden daily, the chickens tended, 
yards mowed, walks swept. When there was a break in the 
work, we sat on the shaded front porch. What an important 
part of life was that porch! We sat comfortably there, pro- 
tected from sun or rain, shielded from insects by screens, yet 
with the pleasure of being outside and in touch with the neigh- 
borhood. Wilma from next door might bring over a new 
cutwork design she is using on a tablecloth she is making; 
across the street, Bobby Waters might have a net stretched for 
patching in the shade of the old plum tree in the back yard; fur- 
ther down the street. Daddy Carpenter might be trying out 
one of the Mallard duck weathervanes he carved so well. All 
very casual and low key, but such was the involvement and 
relationship in the daily activities of friends and neighbors. 

In the evening, girls went "walking," stopping often 
along the way to chat with people sitting outside, enjoying the 
coolness. The Beddow family owned a boarding house (owned 
by the Allenbaugh's at an earlier time) which sat near the 
walk, and it had a long open porch where someone was nearly 
always sitting. Grandma and Gladys Beddow were friendly 
folk and we always stopped for a chat. We walked through the 
downtown, but didn't linger there; the men of the town gath- 
ered there in the evening, sitting on the steps in front of the 
Bank, exchanging news and opinions. This was a ritual with 
them, just as the evening stroll was for us. 

The young of all ages gathered often at the Railroad 
depot; it had a large brick-paved, lighted area, with steps, a 

loading platform, and several baggage wagons. It was a good 
place to sit, talk, sing; in winter it gave us a warm meeting 
place inside with long benches for sitting, a warm fire in the 
pot-bellied stove, and a friendly station agent who tolerated a 
reasonable amount of noise, but no horseplay or rowdiness. 

Now few houses are built with porches; like sidewalks, 
their usefulness in residential areas is almost gone. Who 
walks, who sits outside? We use the car to go a few blocks; we 
sit inside a house with windows and doors closed, keeping in 
warmth in winter and air conditioned coolness in summer. We 
don't have time to chat. Spare time is spent in front of the tele- 
vision; instead of sharing the life in our community, we wrap 
ourselves in the fantasy lives of "All My Children" or "General 
Hospital" which require no real involvement or little thought 
from us. 

We would not want to, nor could we, go back. Life must 
move forward. But let us recognize that it has not all been gain; 
some things of great value have been sacrificed along the way. I 
see no way to reconcile the deeply rewarding daily involvement 
of small-town life of sixty years ago with the detached and 
uninvolved life style resulting from the progress we have made 
in the intervening years. While we have gained much in mate- 
rial things, we have lost so much in real values. 

This generation wonders how we ever survived such a 
desolate life. Cars, if any, were used for business purposes, not 
as teenage toys. There was no such thing as television, no run- 
ning water, which meant no indoor plumbing. Parents 
expected you to earn spending money. At school poor grades 
were to be ashamed of, rather than the 'in thing.' No stereo, no 
tape players, no M.T.V.! But their surfeit of pleasures robs 
today's youngsters of the joys of anticipation, the pleasures of 
remembrance, the satisfaction of sharing. Nothing on televi- 
sion could compare to the thrill back then of waking in the 
early morning to the lilting sound of the calliope from the 
river, telling us the long anticipated showboat was at the land- 

Perhaps we had small pleasures and lived a more limited 
life. But we were totally involved with our family and our com- 
munity. We lived a lifestyle which taught us to share, to care, 
and to be aware of the others in our world. 


Louise E. Efnur 

Moving day was a day of excitement and joy for my hus- 
band and me. We had long anticipated moving to the country, 
and now it was reality — a home in the farming community of 
Checkrow. I noticed a church and a school as we drove along, 
two very important places for a family, and we were to be fam- 
ily in just a few short months. 

Checkrow proved to be a friendly community, and I soon 
became acquainted with many of the ladies at a "pink and 
blue" shower for the pastor's wife at the home of Aunt Mary 
Smith and LIncle Dorie Leister (they were aunt and uncle to 
most everyone in the community, a very kind and caring 
brother and sister team). 

Several weeks later I met the Pastor of Checkrow Church 
in rather unusual way (or so I thought). The Ghiglieris, former 
owners of our home, had left two sheep for us to look after 
until they could get them moved to their new home. The coun- 
try and most of its critters were rather new to me. Although I 
had grown up in a small town, I knew very little of country crit- 
ters, especially those woolly ones! So, it was with much appre- 
hension that I approached those two sheep one day to drive 
them back into their pen. The more I chased them, the more 
obstinate they became and just couldn't see the gate. As my 
Dad used to say, "they were blind in one eye and couldn't see 
out of the other." Finally, in desperation, I remembered my 
neighbor across the field, and I sped in the house to our old 

crank telephone and cranked out her ninnber (a number in 
those days was so many longs and so many shorts). Our neigh- 
l)or lady's welcome voice answered, and she asked if she could 
help in any way — she must have heard the desperation in my 
voice. I asked if either her husband or one of her boys were 
home and could possibly come and help me get the sheep in. 
"No," she replied, "but the preacher is here and I'll send him 
over to help." Well, the pastors and preachers I had known 
usually wore their Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes every day of 
the week, and they knew nothing about these kind of sheep! 
Needless to say, I was very much surprised when this man, 
very large in stature, wearing bib overalls, came in the yard 
and said the neighbor lady had told him I needed some help. 
He could tell I needed help, no doubt, because I just stood with 
my mouth open and kind of pointed to the sheep. Sizing up the 
situation at hand, the pastor told me to shut the gate to the 
sheep pen, and he would take care of the wandering sheep — 
and he did. Walking up to each one, in turn, he quickly picked 
up those fat, woolly bodies and lifted them up and over the 
fence and sat them down in their pen. I'm sure the sheep were 
as equally as surprised as I was. This pastor not only knew the 
sheep of his church fold but knew these critters as well! 

My first look at Checkrow Church was just as surprising 
as my first meeting with its pastor. I rejoiced to find fellowship 
of like faith, but no one had prepared me for that first visit to 
the church. The first thing I saw as I entered the church was a 
big, pot-bellied stove right in the middle of the aisle of the 
church. In attending church there you soon learned to be one 
of the early-birds and get a seat next to the stove, if you wanted 
to be warm! Now don't get me wrong. The churches I had 
attended were not all that fancy, being small-town churches, 
but they did have furnaces and indoor plumbing. The heart- 
felt warmth and fellowship of those dear Checkrowites more 
than made up for the lack of warmth in the building, and the 
Word of God preached there made you all nice and warm on 
the inside, so what more could you ask for? 

Services at Checkrow were (and still are) every Sunday 
morning and evening, with prayer meeting during the week, 
usually on Wednesday night. Prayer meeting at Checkrow 
proved to be just as warm and friendly as the other services, 
and I foundmy self going often and liking it, too. In those days 
the service was held in the homes in the wintertime. The 
adults sat on whatever chairs were available and the children 
sat on the floor, more often than not falling asleep before the 
service ended. For prayer time we knelt beside the chairs (or if 
in church by the pew), and it seemed like we were just closer 
and nearer to God that way and we really meant business get- 
ting our petitions Heaven-ward. 

Since then our church has had many "face lifts" — there's 
carpet on the floor, furnaces, Sunday School rooms, a base- 
ment and kitchen, and oh, yes, indoor plumbing. But there are 
no longer the lovely shade trees around the church. The 
weather has taken its toll on them, but the long sliding-bank 
for the kids is still there (and is still a worry for the mothers!). 
Though the church has changed in all these ways, the people 
who make up the body of it have not changed and neither has 
the doctrine changed. God is still open for business at the little 
church on the corner in Checkrow. 

A few years after our move to the Checkrow neighbor- 
hood, our little country school became consolidated with 
other small schools in the community. A nice brick building 
was built, just north down the road from the one-room school, 
housing all eight grades and a lunch room. Everyone in the 
community pitched in and helped with this project. The ladies 
soon formed the "Mothers Club," and with this organization 
the first hot-lunch program was begun. Our school was the 
center of the community activities for many years. The chil- 
dren not only were educated there but the parents as well. 
They worked with one another in organizing family nights, 
chili suppers, ice-cream socials, wiener roasts, etc. 

Just nine years later we were told that it was no longer 
feasible to keep Checkrow School open. Among the many rea- 

sons were that it was difficult to get teachers to come to the 
country to teach, the country children were missing out on 
many of the activities available in town schools, and the 
expenses were just too much for the school district to handle. 
One remark, that still sticks in my craw (if you'll excuse the 
expression), given by one of the school officials, was: "That's 
progress." I'm not sure it was. 

Many changes in our community have been made, new 
homes have been built, others have had "face-lifts," and some 
people have moved on and others moved in, but the friendli- 
ness and the caring for friend and neighbor still remain. 


Mildred Norton 

Before and during the twenties, the very small towns in 
central Illinois were thriving communities. The little town of 
my youth boasted a bank, a hardware store, a dry goods store, 
two or more grocery stores, a meat market, a blacksmith shop, 
three churches, a dentist, a doctor, a weekly newspaper, a 
grade school, a two-year high school in the same building, and 
my Uncle's ice cream store and restaurant. 

Cornell had a population of only five hundred, but draw- 
ing from a prosperous farm area, the village was the hub of 
social and cultural life. The finest homes were owned by the 
doctor, the dentist, and the banker. The banker's children, 
especially, wore more stylish clothes and seemed to have dif- 
ferent mannerisms than us farm people. We knew their par- 
ents were college educated. Perhaps we were a little in awe of 

At the west end of main street stood the Wabash Depot. 
Passenger and freight trains came daily, with enough business 
for a full time station attendant. Every fall my Uncle Frank 
contracted for a carload of Roman Beauty apples from Ohio. 
They were shipped in barrels, and were sold that way. I 
remember as a child going with my father in the wagon to get 
the barrels he had ordered. Four or five were to be put in our 

The blacksmith shop, with its every glowing anvil, was 
where the farmers brought their wagons to be repaired, their 
plow blades to be sharpened, and their horses to be shoed. 
There they discussed their crops, the weather, and politics. 

On Saturday nights, farmers would bring their eggs and 
farm produce to trade in the grocery and dry goods stores for 
their needs. My mother took care of payment for all our dental 
work, with home-made butter, delivered regularly to the den- 
tist, where credit was noted on the books. No cash was ever 

It was in my Uncle's ice cream store that I received my 
extra-curricular education, not found in any school. When I 
finished eighth grade, I did not graduate, because it was a one- 
room country school. We lived several miles from town, and 
my aunt and uncle, who owned the ice cream store, suggested 
to my parents that I come and live with them and be their 
"girl" (they had two boys) and go to high school. Here I learned 
to clean a soda fountain till it gleamed, waited on tables, and 
met the banter, the rudeness, and the kindness of people, 
thereby learning to judge the difference. Aunt Eva and Uncle 
Perry always made sure I had time for study, and for school 

My uncle made his own ice cream. Never since have I 
tasted ice cream such as Murphy's. A self-made business man. 
Uncle Perry worked from five a.m. till ten p.m. weekdays. 

Saturday night was the big night. The farmers and the 
townspeople all "went to town" on Saturday. Farmers came in 
their carriages and wagons. Main Street became alive and 

Murphy's was the "hub." Young folks brought their dates for 
ice cream sodas and sundaes— heaped high with nuts and real 
whipped cream. Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Smith and other ladies from 
the sewing circle met for a sundae and to visit. On Saturday 
nights my aunt and I were waitresses, and we would serve till 
midnight. Basketball games were "played again" over the 
fountain bar. A player piano in the rear was fed a nickel for two 
tunes. It made a festive evening for all, and business thrived. 

Our little town was not without culture. Tent shows came 
in the summer. "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "East Lynn," and others 
which I can't recall were performed. I always fell in love with 
the leading man. 

A big event that was planned once a year was the Old Sol- 
diers Reunion. Four days and nights of carnival excitement. 
Civil war veterans and their families came from far and near. 
The town park became a city of tents and sparkling lights. 
People rented the tents and camped the entire four days. We 
had speakers, good lectures, bands, and entertainment both 
afternoons and evenings. Even a merry-go-round, a ferris 
wheel, and a midway. 

Our town had its characters, such as the lonely widow 
who, it was said, marked her calendar for every wedding in 
town, counting the months till the first addition to the family. 
National and state elections were a cause for celebration. A 
screen would be erected between two buildings, where the elec- 
tion returns were flashed by the same camera used for the 
five-cent movies in the town hall. When the farmers came to 
town, there were a few model T Fords, but mostly wagons and 

High school was on the second floor of the grade school 
building, and that floor held the entire enrollment. One 
teacher taught both freshman and sophomores, and was also 
the principal. After those two years, I received an invitation to 
finish school from another aunt and uncle who owned a hotel 
in Pontiac, Illinois, where there was a four-year high school, 
but that is another story. With the advent of the auto, the 

demise of the self-contained small towns began. They pro- 
vided a unique way of life, and now they are gone. 


Burdette Graham 

An institution of several hundred years passed during 
the nineteen twenties, with the coming of the automobile to 
almost every farm family. That institution was Saturday 
Night. For some it was a time to get ready for Sunday, but for 
many others it was different things. 

First, for all it meant having a boiler of hot water on the 
old kitchen stove and an old galvanized wash tub in the middle 
of the kitchen. In our home first the hired man got his turn and 
got cleaned up and dressed up for his trip to town, or to see his 
girl friend. He always tried to "get off work by five so he could 
be on his way before six. He either drove away with a nice horse 
and buggy or in many cases a good used Model T car. On his 
way he usually picked up a few other hired men or neighbor 
boys who needed a ride to town for Saturday Night. 

Next came the older boys, of which I was first in line. I 
might use the same tub of water which the hired man had left, 
especially if I was in a rush to get the bath, wanted to ride to 
town with the hired man or catch the next man coming by 
from further down the road. My folks never got the rest of the 
eight kids their baths, and the other chores done, to ever go to 
town on Saturday Night. 

Our Saturday Night town was Table Grove, even though 
we were about the same distance from Adair or Industry. Most 
of the going to town took place in about seven or eight months, 
as the colder months limited what was happening. We tied the 
horse as close to town as possible, but usually within a block of 


the square, so we did not have too far to carry supphes which 
we were to sell, like cream, eggs, and butter, and not too far to 
carry the things we had to take home. If we had a lot we could 
drive up to stores to unload or load. 

The square at Table Grove had several grocery stores, 
including Haists on the south side, and Frederick's in the 
southeast corner, and a Red and White on another part of the 
square. On the east side was Kirkbride's Clothing Store; on 
the northwest corner was Charley Cox's Shoe Store, and on 
the northeast corner was Keoler's Drug Store and Ice cream 
Parlor. We had business in most of these almost every week. 
There was a furniture store on the south side, but I never 
remember buying anything there. Usually the hardware store 
was visited too, but I can't remember the name or location. 
Sometime before going home, after selling and shopping, a 
visit was made to get some ice cream. 

Usually on Saturday Night a movie was shown in the 
park, or sometimes a play put on by Minor Brock and either 
his own players or a community group he had trained. Some- 
times a special was presented on a Thursday night, but usually 
one night a week was all anyone could "waste" away from 
home and work. Sometimes community musical groups made 
up a home talent show, and I appeared on one of these after 
1933, singing cowboy songs. 

But as soon as people got better cars, and better roads, 
the small town of Table Grove lost out to towns further away, 
and stores began to close. Fewer people came, so the fun of 
Saturday Night gave way to more time on the road and excite- 
ment further away from home. 

Something happened when we got further away. We had 
known the store owners and had visited with them, and many 
people refused to leave for the bigger towns. They still did 
their shopping during the week in the small town when they 
had other errands in town. But when you do not see people, 
you cease to know much about them, and really, I felt like I had 
lost a friend when I could not talk with Charlie Haist, or Char- 

ley Cox, or Mr. Keoler. 

In 1922 I started to high school, but our home was on the 
side of the road, which put us in the Adair District, so Table 
Grove became a strange town for me. Since I was in Adair for 
school. I could take produce to town to sell and bring home 
supplies, so I got friendly with the Herndons, for groceries and 
hardware, and the Oldfields, for groceries and some clothes, 
and the mail carrier, Joe Dunblazier, who carried the mail 
down our road. I took cream and eggs to Elzie Walters, and 
some chickens to be picked and packed and shipped on the 
train to Bushnell or Chicago. 

I had known all the homesteads on the five mile trip to 
Table Grove, so now I became acquainted with everyone on the 
road to Adair. I was still driving the road in horse and buggy as 
we did not get a car until 1926, the year I graduated from high 
school. Adair had band concerts on a week night, but I do not 
remember anything about Saturday Night in Adair. For me, 
Saturday Night will always be associated with Table Grove. 


Esmarelda T. Thomson 

The "Cash Book" in front of me rests as evidence that 
the store was real. One of its pages shows an 1897 entry about 
contracting with the Willis Brothers to build it. I can go to the 
Table Grove Square any day to see the old building remodeled 
as a Post Office and know that on that spot, in that same brick 
building, a merchant's stock and treasure once existed, and 
for a time, it was a stroke of fortune for its owners. Later, it was 
a place of magic for the grandchildren of the family. 

The stroke of fortune was disappearing as the magic set 
in. The children knew there were some parts of the place 
where the merchandise didn't move, but those were toward the 
back. The coffee grinder was silent with the brass catcher pol- 


ished and t he big wheel poised to go around. One could detect a 
whiff of ground coffee if you gave the wheel a spin, which I 
often did. It smelled the same as my grandmother's small 
hand-grinder, used in her kitchen with Arbuckle's Brand: a 
dry, brown aroma, related but separate from the breakfast 
drink. The spice jars were glass measuring cups topped with 
tin lids; buy a glass of spices, get your measure cup free! The 
blue label on the the side spoke of faraway places and showed 
people in coolee hats. Ceylon beckoned and I smelled the tea 
served at supper, a delightful fragrance. 

One entered the store from a patterned, brick sidewalk 
onto a cast iron platform which separated the front show win- 
dows with displays for both men and women. Heavy iron bars 
were constructed in front of each window around the base- 
ment window wells. These bars were natural exercise entice- 
ments for children, who climbed them and also sat either on 
the first or top rungs. It was a rule to not throw paper into the 
wells, though leaves blew in. 

The women's offerings included carefully draped bolts of 
fabric, lace, gloves, ribbons and umbrellas in a fan-shaped 
holder at the back. Men's furnishings showed hats, caps, 
gloves, shoes and a sign urging the purchase of tailor-made 
suits. No prices cluttered these displays! The quality of the 
articles spoke for themselves. As the store faced the West, the 
heavy, green roller curtains installed inside the broad front 
windows were important to shield the rays of the afternoon 
sun and its damaging effects on the merchandise. Each shade 
displayed the name HUNTER'S, lettered in large, gold print 
and visible to the outside when lowered. My Uncle John car- 
ried out the curtain-lowering with ritual precision to guard 
"the stock." 

The front door was heavy with a plate glass window and 
an ornate brass lock-plate with a curved handle and thumb 
rest on the right side. A favorite child-thing to do was to go to 
the front of the store and peer in the door window to catch a 
glimpse of the interior with the long counters, the glass cabi- 

nets, wooden cases, and the shelves and boxes all in semi- 
gloom with the three light cords and shaded bulbs spaced and 
hanging from the ceiling, equipped with separate switches. 
The silhouette of my Uncle John's rotund figure, dressed in 
grey trousers, white shirt and grey sweater, coming toward the 
front, looking for a customer, is etched in my memory. He 
would welcome me in, either singly or with my sister, brother, 
and cousins, and if there was sufficient time he would show us 
the ribbon case where ladies jewelry was kept, a man's sailor 
straw hat, maybe a colorful bolt of silk or possibly a pair of 
white suede pumps with bows edged in black! We could even 
try these on and walk along the shelves — but not on the 
floor — to keep the soles clean. Magic! 

My uncle grew up in the business, as did his brothers, 
though they went to Chicago to expand their horizons. He 
learned merchandising from his father at a time when Chicago 
wholesalers were the same men whose large retail stores 
opened onto State Street in that city: the companies of 
Marshall Field, Carson, Pirie and Scott, and Charles A. 
Stevens. A dealer went to the city market and also made pur- 
chases from traveling salesmen. Stock was freighted by rail- 
road, received, priced, tagged and placed on the proper 
shelves. Trade was brisk when John was a young man; he saw 
the new store built in 1897-99. He helped take the contents 
from the old wooden building moved northward on the square 
for "business as usual" during the making of the new location. 
He stoked the large, new stoked the large, new basement fur- 
nace and enjoyed the central heating which emanated from 
the enormous round iron floor register, with its intricate pat- 
terns, in the center of the new store. He saw the placement of 
the full-length mirror set in the east wall, ready for customers 
to view their coats or suits. The store opened for business at 
seven in the morning, closed for one hour periods at noon and 
the supper hour, and resumed trade until eight-thirty to nine 
p.m. Business was integrated into life-style with home a short 
walk away, out the store's rear door. There was a discipline in 


the system with regular times for the year's cycle of purchas- 
ing and selling, inventorying the merchandise, paying bills 
and tending the store. Other merchants on Table Grove's 
Square also knew the ways of marketing dry goods to turn a 
dollar. Customers came from the village and the surrounding 

The cash register was a marvelous ornate brass box, high 
at the back facing the customer, and graduated down on the 
front with its rows of punch keys to ring up a sale. A bell 
sounded as the drawer opened and one could see the wooden 
cash box with many concave circles for holding change and 
rectangles for bills. The secret of opening the register was 
known only by the storekeeper, and even in the days of no cash 
in the till, the code was guarded. The Day Book was kept in the 
office and showed the record of day to day sales, with an occa- 
sional comment. Toward the end of the store, the book held 
many notes about the family and the town but few transac- 
tions. The "hard road" built through the town (in 1927), the 
paving and curbing of the square, and the encroaching 
Depression depleted the business. 

The office was an open room at the southeast corner of 
the store, separated at the top of the entry space with decora- 
tive spindles of wood, painted the same as the building's all- 
over interior, an off-grey. The substantial furnishings were an 
enormous iron safe with a colorful patriotic transfer painting 
on the front and an oak roll-top desk which matched its size. A 
large swivel chair on rollers completed the arrangement with a 
continuation of shelving at the back. This shelf counter of 
maple was a convenient place for Uncle John's encyclopedias, 
books and magazines. High above the desk was a very large, 
framed photograph of my grandparents, flanked by American 
flags, one with 13 stars and the other with 48. Below the pic- 
ture, hung horizontally, was my grandfather's Civil War mus- 

This was the place where the grandchildren gathered. 
This was the place of magic! My uncle was a natural at the 

royal entertainment of children who, being restless at the 
house, went to the store for action! The typewriter on the desk 
with its half-circle bank of letters and ruinous purple ink 
could be tried. The adding machine was available for a column 
or two. The desk drawers held 2<t stamps and an array of 
unique pens and pencils. On the well-used advertisement blot- 
ter pad lay a letter opener with a celluloid Japanese lady's 
head, a magnifying glass for close inspections, and a brass 
hand telescope was in one of the desk cubby holes. The 
National Geographic, Scribners, The Saturday Evening Post 
and the Chicago Tribune were there for viewing; and looking 
out the big window with casual visits to passersby below made 
a continuous stream of interest. Sometimes Uncle John told 
stories of going to McKinley's Inauguration with his father or 
seeing a parade of the Grand Old Army at a reunion in 
Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery. One also hoped for the high 
moment when either my brother or my cousin Freddie would 
be dispatched to the drug store with the proper change for a 
pint of ice cream. All present were given store tags which we 
deftly bent into little scoops, and with our Uncle John we 
learned sharing as we dipped into our common treat. 

These were the lovely moments before a familiar femi- 
nine voice from the back door called in saying, "John, do you 
have the children?" And we hastily put the used tags in the ice 
cream bucket with its wire handle and fold-down lid, licked our 
lips and smiled at our uncle who returned the smile, creating a 
never-to-be-forgotten bond of family fun and collusion- 
magic — for us children! 



Wilson M. Baltz 

Relentlessly pounded and hammered by the brutal 
wrecking ball of progress, the Philip Baltz General Mercantile 
Store stands no longer. Its absence awakens poignant memo- 
ries of my childhood in a rural village. 

In my reverie I remember the times I was sent there on 
errands, some with dispatch, others with leisure. Its long 
wooden overhanging porch roof, one and one-half stories high, 
offered an oasis as I hurried barefoot along on blistering hot 
sidewalks under the summer sun. It was a refuge, too, for fami- 
lies of sparrows nesting in the corners of the elaborate support 
beams, voicing chittery, twittery protestation at my intru- 

I climbed the nine steps, not unlike stone terraces of an 
ancient citadel. The hemp mat pricked my soft under-feet as I 
pulled open the screen door, heavy with green paint, its belly 
bulging as if with child. The shiny brass handle and the time- 
worn thumb latch of the main door, smooth and cool to my 
hand, promised greater refuge from the summer's blaze. I'd 
lean against it. The heavy glass door, armored with scaly 
paint, would swing effortlessly inward. Overhead, a tiny bell 
tingled my arrival. 

Smooth, oiled pine flooring cooled my scorched heels 
and toes. The free-playing door, worn in its hinges, would then 
silently reverse its arc and slam shut on a small boy in his 
uncle's emporium. My eyes might have been slow to adjust to 
the dim light, but my nostrils would be overwhelmed by most 
delicious aromas! 

The mellowness of ripe red apples, the delicious fra- 
grance of velvety peaches and the rich, winey bouquet of 
grapes in purple mounds would tantalize me. Also, soft, 
yellow-skinned pears wafted their seductive sweetness, and 
tempted me to possess one at all costs. Aromatic coffees 
blended their exotic essences with yeasty pastries. Smoked 

ham and bacon proudly proclaimed their rustic origins as 
crated eggs stood silent witness and strong cheeses and sugary 
candies battled to woo the faint-hearted. Treasured spices, 
individually distinctive, were also part of the sumptuous 
smells, and the rich, sweet odor of black molasses was evident. 
Also unmistakeably present was the penetrating cigar smoke 
of the original and sole proprietor. 

Shelves were neatly stacked with canned goods, some 
familiar, some new-fangled. Slate signs in chalked script 
announced "Fresh Butter" and "New Cereals." Patent medi- 
cines, guaranteed to cure everything and anything, were for 
the lame and ailing. 

The dry goods shelves had the look of a hardwood forest 
attired in bright autumn fashions. Perky ginghams, bright 
flannels, bold plaids and sprightly cottons blended hues with 
the velvets, denims, wools, satins and corduroys in a splendid 
array of colors. 

Passing a display case, I'd look wistfully at the treasure I 
secretly desired. Oh why, oh why, must I wait until cold winds 
to possess the black gloves, their fringed, glossy gauntlets 
emblazoned with a white star? 

Overhead, between strands of black wire and pentulant 
fly-specked light bulbs hung an assortment of tinware, buck- 
ets, egg crates, tubs, lamps and lanterns. Lined along a wall, 
standing at stiff attention like a rabble in arms, were stone- 
ware jugs, some squatty, some lean. Some were short and fat in 
coats of gray, brown, sombre black or dull white. 

The Gargantuan-sized stove, which in season served as a 
source of comfort, stood near the rear of the store. "Empire" 
by name, it was embellished with fancy designs and elabo- 
rately ornamented. The nickel-silver dome topped by a 
Romanesque ornament rose high above me. An artistic tile 
piece, circular, white and fluted, adorned the stove door. To 
the right and left of the tile piece, mica windows, sooty, peered 
at me like eyes of a devilish monster. The skirt and legs were 
fancily decorated with artistic swirls, lines, circles and lacey 



The foot rests, smooth-worn, showed evidence of long- 
winded debates by leather-booted debators when the winds of 
winter stopped outdoor activities. I can hear them now, dis- 
cussing T. R. and the Big Stick, Equal Suffrage, the Silver 
Standard. Like a primeval demon, the stove pipe rose and 
arched and snaked its way across the room to escape into its 

At times the proprietor would startle me and inquire in a 
soft, kind voice, "What is it you want. Sonny?" A little tweak of 
the nose, gray eyes smiling behind gold-rimmed glasses, 
bespoke a gentle, kind man. I would make my purchase and 
hurrv out. 


Wilsan M. Baltz 

In the early part of this century, police in small towns, 
not blessed with modern communication systems, relied on 
their own resources to maintain peace and tranquility. Most 
small towns and villages had a jail, or, to put it into the par- 
lance of slang, a hoosegow, calaboose, lockup, clink, or cooler 
in which suspects of criminal acts cooled their heels and 
tipplers slept off their indulgences. 

The jail in Millstadt, St. Clair County, was built in 1905. 
The small red brick building, now relegated to the unglamor- 
ous role of a store room, opened its door to vagrants, drifters 
and genuine tramps in the late 20's and the 30's to provide 
shelter, warmth and a hard bed on wintery nights. The "grape 
vine wireless" in the world of tramps and hoboes worked mira- 
cles, and the location of the jail was well-known to the foot- 
sore tramp who was "just passing through." The village was 
sought-out and the jail door was unlocked for respite from 
fatigue and the harsh elements. 

Those who came were appreciative of the hospitality 
afforded by the village, so no rowdyism occurred for fear that 
the jail door would, in a manner of speaking, be barred in the 
future. The guests kept the jail in order by sweeping the floor, 
carrying out ashes from the coal-burning stove, and properly 
disposing of litter. No food was served to the guests. But .there 
was no rule against one cooking his meal with utensils carried 
in his pack. Lodging was permitted for one night only. It is 
matter of record that as many as seven tramps stayed in the 
jail in one night. It was not unusual to hear plaintive notes 
from a harmonica drifting on the gentle breezes on a warm 
summer night when a homesick Knight of the Road tried to 
forget what was left behind. 

This writer remembers vividly the time of the Great 
Depression when tramps begged for food. They came, under- 
standably, at noon time, to the back door. The tin plate, tin cup 
and cutlery were taken from their place, and heaped high with 
vegetables, a hunk of meat, a slab of home-made bread, and 
the cup filled to the very brim with hot strong coffee. Some- 
times, dessert was on the menu, too. The hungry man was fed 
on the porch steps in fair weather and permitted to eat in an 
enclosed porch in wet and cold times. Then a soft rapping on 
the kitchen door pane, a nod of thanks, and a wave of the hand 
signalled a grateful man. Sometimes two tramps came for food 
at the same meal. One man, huge and heavily bearded, was a 
frequent guest. However, he refused food unless he could pay 
for it by pruning grape vines, spading a garden plot, or carry- 
ing out furnace ashes from the basement. 

Hobo camps were not uncommon. The old brickyard in 
Millstadt harbored a few men. Some lived in a nearby timber 
during the spring and summer. One lived for months in an 
abandoned coal mine. In those days, hoboes were kind, 
unfeared men who, as God and they knew, met a bad turn of 
fate. But they got a break in Millstadt, where the jail was 
always open — for a night. 


Bernice Cooper 

remains and can be traveled yet today, but the railroad belongs 
to the past. 

I remember the train at the Ellisville Station. Ellisville is 
in Fulton County, and Spoon River runs gently by the town. 
However, the station was located about two and one-half miles 
north and east of where Ellisville is now. The train went 
through the station two times a day on the way from Galesburg 
to West Havana and back. The train started in Galesburg and 
proceeded by traveling south to Belong, crossing Spoon River 
at London Mills, traveling on to the Ellisville Station and then 
on to Parville, around by the elevator at Fairview, on to the 
Bybee Station, then to Fiatt, Cuba, Lewistown, Sepo, and 
finally ending at West Havana. They turned around, making 
the return trip to Galesburg the same day. 

A hack, driven by Dan Knickerbocker, would carry min- 
ers to the train station at Maten (as it was later called). I never 
rode in the hack, and to this day I wish I had. Dad would bring 
cream to meet the hack. It was then shipped to Chicago to be 
made into butter. The cream money was then mailed and we 
would get it on Thursday. Later, when Dad could afford a car, 
my family started traveling to Bushnell to sell our cream at 
Swifts and then buy our groceries. 

The miners would walk to meet the hack in the mornings 
to take them to the mines. Many were too poor to own any 
means of transportation. Almost every home in Ellisville was 
a miner's home. Since the mining operation was so successful, 
the coal company built a dozen homes along the road (for min- 
ers families) near the Ellisville Station. The families usually 
were large, and the homes had a lot of things in their yards, 
which were unkept. It wasn't long before those homes were 
known as "The Dirty Dozen." Soon the coal company built six 
more homes across the road, and they became "The Greasy 

It wasn't that many years ago that you could still see the 
cement blocks left after the homes were gone. The road 


Lou damage 

In the early part of the twentieth century the town o: 
Macomb, Illinois, was the typical midwestern county seat 
farm oriented, fundamental, and friendly. Roughly two miles 
across, with the exact center graced by the customary steeple 
crowned courthouse which reigned majestically over the green 
carpeted lawn, Macomb was blessed with a few brick pave 
ments and a multitude of dirt side streets. Around the square 
which made up the entire shopping district, the wide concrete 
sidewalk was lined with two and three story buildings, solid 
trimmed with ornate stone cornices, and reeking with dignity. 
The first floors were occupied by the various classes of mer- 
chants, and the upper floors were filled with the imposing 
offices of doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, and insurance 
brokers. Third floor lodge halls housed the Masons, the Odd 
Fellows, the Knights of Columbus, the Modern Woodmen, 
and the Elks. Around the square and reaching into the edge of 
the countryside on the main thoroughfares, millions of nine- 
pound, flint hard, Purington paving bricks resisted the con- 
tinuous clip-clop of the dray horses. Shipped by rail from the 
yards at East Galesburg, those bricks also provided the route 
from the local freight and passenger depots to the county fair- 
grounds that nestled between the residential section and the 
fertile farming country along the southern border of town. 
They still lie beneath the blacktop that now carries the unend- 
ing stream of modern automobiles. Where the bricks ended, 
the mud began. 

Circus day was the high point of the year. When the 
advance men for Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Brothers, or 


Robinson Brothers began plastering the many board fences, 
barns, and tree trunks with the colorful and exaggerated 
advertising posters, we began to get ready for the great day. 
This wonderful event divided the juvenile population into 
three classes: those whose parents could afford to pay their 
way into the side shows and the big tent, those who were too 
poor to buy tickets but were old enough to "work their way in," 
and the kids who were too poor and too small to do either. Dur- 
ing the years that I was growing from the third category into 
the second, I had to be content to just watch them unload from 
the railroad cars and get ready for the big show. 

The most exciting spectacle of all was the great ele- 
phants and the magnificent horses as they worked together, 
for they were the prime movers of the gigantic wagons that 
transported the circus over the two miles from the long private 
train to the grassy infield of the dirt race track at the fair- 
grounds. My mother would gently shake me at four o'clock in 
the morning. Wide awake in an instant, I would slip into my 
faded blue overalls, having slept in my shirt, and gulp down a 
hasty breakfast which in my eagerness I hardly tasted, and 
rush to hold the door open for my indulgent and smiling 
father. Dad would walk me to the depot, a distance of over a 
mile, and there I would sit astride his broad shoulders and 
watch with bated breath as the wonders of the universe began 
to emerge from the big box-cars. Then, after an exotic chain of 
wagons, animals, and strange looking people started to string 
out along Lafayette street, my bare feet would prance excit- 
edly beside the worn and patient brogans of my guide toward 
the other end of the golden road. 

The final block of the route sloped gradually down a hill, 
across a small stone bridge, and rose sharply up an incline to 
bring us to the stuccoed ticket gates to the one-day city of Par- 
adise. Here, under the friendly branches of a large elm, I again 
mounted my paternal blue-clad throne and watched. Down 
the slope came the wagons, each one pulled by eight of the 
most wonderful horses I had ever seen. Every team was per- 

fectly matched — grays, bays, and blacks. The dazzling splen- 
dor of their harnesses was beyond my imagination. The 
splendid animals, each one weighing over a ton, threw their 
tremendous power into their collars and challenged the 
incline. Although the street was paved, the gateway itself was 
only covered with cinders, and as the wagons left the solid 
footing of the bricks, the big steel-rimmed wheels would begin 
to sink into the ground. The cage wagons that held the wild 
animals would usually make it through the gateway, but the 
heavy, compact loads of tenting and other equipment would 
often bog down. 

The circus people were ready, for they were probably the 
most organized institution in the world. Over at one side, wait- 
ing under a second tall elm, was another eight-horse team, and 
although the horses might be a different color than those that 
were attached to the wagon, they were all matched. On the 
right rear horse sat the driver, with an unbelievable mass of 
leather lines wrapped around his arms. Like the man on the 
wagon seat, he was a professional. When the heavy load could 
go no further, he deftly guided his team to the front of the oth- 
ers and a roustabout made the hitch. Then, as one single unit, 
the sixteen tons of bone, sinew, and muscle laid into their 
moaning harnesses, and a little boy's heart would pound with 
the thrill of it as the great monstrous wagon would groan and 
begin to move forward. Even then the soggy surface would 
sometimes prove too much of a barrier for such a formidable 
force, but the circus folks were not to be frustrated. They had 
an "ace in the hole" in the form of a gigantic gray elephant. On 
the outside of the gateway the gentle titan stood, slowly swing- 
ing his long, sensitive trunk from side to side, occasionally 
pulling up a piece of sod and tossing it over his leathery back. 
When his mahout observed that the two eight-horse teams 
could not budge the load, he led his patient pachyderm to the 
back of the wagon and directed him to place his enormous 
head against the tailgate. Together, as one, the horses and the 
elephant never failed to conquer even the most stubborn of 


the wagons. 

A few more years were to pass before I was old enough to 
earn my ticket by joining the crew of clambering kids. Many 
good memories make those days more precious than material 
riches, but the best one of all is the image of those sixteen mag- 
nificent horses and the great gray giant as they brought the 
magic of the big circuses through the golden gateway to a 
child's heart. 


Mattie Emery 

When I was in grade school we moved into a small town. 
There wasn't much to do for entertainment except go to 
school or on our twice a week trip to the public library. 

Saturday nights were shopping nights. All of the stores 
stayed open late. People would come from miles around to 
town to do their trading. Cream and eggs were big items to help 
buy the groceries. Everyone would walk up and down main 
street and visit with friends and relatives that you didn't see 
that often otherwise. 

Your could walk over to the park, sit down and fan your- 
self while listening to the Saturday night concert of the high 
school band. The smaller kids would chase each other around 
and around, seeing who could catch the most fireflies. 

One of the big thrills of the year was when the medicine 
show came to town every summer. They would park their wag- 
ons in the old seminary yard that at one time had been a 
school. There was plenty of shade and space for what ever 
needs that they might have. 

People would volunteer to help set up the temporary 
rows and rows of seats for the audience of the evening. Every- 
one would get quiet when the barker would start the show. He 
would tell jokes sometimes a little racey to get the crowd 

stirred up and laughing with him. Almost always there would 
be two to four good singers with guitars, banjos, and fiddles. 

Then the medicine man took over the show. He had bot- 
tles and jars of potions and salves that would cure everything 
including upset stomach, backache, side ache, or even just the 
blahs. Then the helpers would pass through the crowd selling, 
for one dollar to five dollars, a bottle or ajar to cure most any- 
thing. Nobody ever complained. They always bought. There 
were always customers for every night they were in town. 
Maybe enjoying the show was worth the cost of the cure 
whether it helped or not. 

Every show had a magician who could amaze and mystify 
the crowd. One of the favorite tricks was to blindfold the magi- 
cian on the stage. A pretty girl would pass through the audi- 
ence asking for articles she could hold up. She would ask the 
masked man what she had in her hand. I don't know what kind 
of code they used but, somehow he always guessed correctly, to 
the delight of the crowd. A big round of applause called for 
more of the same. 

The show would always close with more music and sing- 
ing, with the audience joining in. 

The show would stay in town for three or four nights, as 
long as the crowd would keep buying. Nobody ever com- 
plained. Next year they would be in town again and people 
would still come to buy and to be entertained. 


Anna Becchelli 

I remember the first real medicine show I ever saw, which 
was in Kincaid, IlUnois. It was the last one I saw too. In 1935 it 
was still "hard times," and no one had anywhere to go or any 
money for entertainment. Kincaid was a coal-mining town. 

It was in June when the weather was nice and balmy. It 
was already dark and there were lights shining when I walked 
up with my girlfriend. The medicine show had set up on a 
grassy place with trees, at the edge of town. People walked over 
after supper. Everybody was having a good time talking and 
laughing with neighbors and friends. There were old people, 
couples with babies, young single people, and kids running 
around in the middle of the crowd. 

In the show that I saw, there were six or seven men. They 
had put up signs and a big wooden platform that they stood on. 
One young man, about 30 or so, was dressed in Indian cloths 
with moccasins on his feet. He stood up straight and tall, kept 
his arms folded and never said a word. He was very muscular 
and wore feathers on his head. He was there because they said 
Indians made the medicine. The other men stood on the 
wooden platform and told jokes and made the crowd laugh. 
Before they told about how wonderful their medicine was, they 
had a local amateur show to entertain the crowd. They said, 
"Anyone who wants to can come up and try their talent." 

There was one poor girl who tried to sing a cowboy song. 
First her voice would go up, then it would come down. She sang 
high, then low. I had to turn my face to hide my laughing. Oth- 
ers laughed too. Buy, anyway, they let her finish. After her 
came a couple of young men who played the accordian and 
sang (better than that girl). Then some other people sang and 

After the amateur show was over, they brought out the 
medicine. They offered three kinds: a glass nose tube for 25<t 
or SO*, a box of herb tea for $1.00, and a bottle of oil for $1.50. 

They talked about how good the medicine was for anything 
that ails you, and they sold it like hot cakes. They didn't harm 
anyone with it, and they knew their herbs and how they 
worked. Almost every adult there bought something. I bought 
the nose tube and box of herbs, for making tea. 

The herbs were in a square cardboard box about 7-8 
inches tall and 4 inches wide. It had writing on it to tell you 
what it was good for, how to brew it to make a tea, and whether 
to drink it before or after mealtime. Inside were dried herbs in 
flakes with little dark seeds like peppercorns, only bigger, like 
the sizeofpeas. They were juniper berries. I tried it later, but I 
didn't like the taste. It was strong and bitter. But it did cure my 
stomachache. It was also supposed to be good for fatigue. 

The nose tube had a cork stopper. The tube was 4 inches 
long and 1 inch around and you were supposed to keep it sealed 
real good when it wasn't being used. It was filled with chopped 
and pressed herbs and packed tight with some kind of oil, 
maybe pine oil. It was for headcolds and to unstuff your nose 
or for fainting and headaches. The odor was herbal and it gave 
you tears in your eyes. One whiff and you uttered a cry out 
loud, "Wow," and you didn't want more than one whiff. The 
odor was so strong that you felt like you were pushed up into 
the air. The fumes felt like they went straight up into your 

I put it into a drawer, forgot it, and found it about 25 
years later. I said, "Oh, I bet it's not strong anymore," but by 
golly, it about took the top of my head off, still! The Indians 
sure made that medicine potent. 


Kathryn Steward Roan 

One of the happiest times of the day, in my experience, 
was when the mail arrived. My daughter, Betty, was the post- 

master in Tioga, and the post office was in our home. All the 
folks who came were cheerful, polite and very patient. Smiles, 
laughter, sparkling eyes and pleasing gestures told what each 
had received. Cards, letters, seeds, gifts, and especially mail 
from overseas — these were all eagerly received. 

There is something special about a small village post 
office. It is the location where one member of each family goes 
every day. It is a gathering place for one and all, of all ages. The 
older citizens slowly walk there and exchange news with oth- 
ers before returning home. Weather, illness, crops, babies, 
weddings, deaths, elections, politics, other subjects are dis- 
cussed. No matter what the weather is, people do get out. Let- 
ters, cards, magazines and the papers are cherished by all. 

When we moved to Tioga in September of 1955, Mrs. 
Lilly Thorpe was the postmaster. The post office was in her 
home. She held the position for many years. From there it 
w-ent to Koltzenburgs Store where Mrs. Edna Koltzenburg 
was in charge. On January 1, 1962 the post office was moved to 
our home. In a few years it was moved to the store of Ernie and 
Cora Neil. 

Today villages have gone to rural mail boxes. LaVern 
Keith is still supervisor in charge of the Mendon post office, 
and Wayne Smith is still our rural mail carrier. These men 
have served our village for many years. 

One sad note: our post office here is gone, along with our 
school and our stores. The government took away our identity 
when it closed our post office. It was the last gathering place 
(especially for the old-timers) to visit, chat and reminisce. 

It has been years since we had the post office in Tioga, 
but I can still hear and see the happy faces, laughter, and 
smiles of many local folks. 

Yes, mail time each day was a happy time. 


Liiuise YdLum 

In addition to l)usinesses and homes, schools and 
churches, towns used to be dotted with a variety of other small 
square buildings. These were called by a variety of names: 
privy, outhouse, can, toilet, and backhouse, to name a few. 

In Bardolph, the men and boys seemed to have an over- 
whelming interest in these toilets, especially during Hallow- 
een. On one such holiday evening, corpulant Nancy was 
"tending to business" in her own small building when it was 
unceremoniously tipped over onto its front, trapping Nancy 
inside. She vented her wrath by shouting appropriate invec- 
tives out the hole in the seat. 

On another Halloween, another group of youngsters, 
including my cousin Helen Bess, endeavored to tip another 
such building when Helen Bess slipped at the edge of the pit 
and fell in, ruining her brand new coat, hardly an appropriate 
costume for such a foray. 

One summer late in the 1930's, my husband and I rented 
a small house which had the ever-present privy behind it. 
Nearby was a pile of weeds, trash, garbage, and junk destined 
to be destroyed; but rodents had another use for it: they ran 
and played in the pile, and if a person sitting in the privy 
answering nature's call wanted entertainment, he could enjoy 
the extra curricular activity of shooting the rats who ventured 
into rifle range. Many a time we participated in this sport. 

Another memory of the backhouse is my mother's 
attempts at interior decorating. No doubt she aspired to make 
farmers of the whole family. She "papered" the walls of our 
outhouse with large picture pages, each one decorated with 
about thirty pictures of a particular kind of farm animal. 
These included mainly cattle, hogs, horses, and sheep, with 
each breed of animal labeled with its biological name. Years 
later, I astonished the local Agriculture teacher with my 
unusual knowledge of the many varieties of livestock — due no 


doubt to my long sojourns in the outhouse. 

On the other wall of the building was a colorful advertise- 
ment for a well-known cereal showing a small boy extolingthe 
virtues of Cream of Wheat and exclaiming, "Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum! I 
smell Cream of Wheat. Yum! Yum! Yum!" In later years, sev- 
eral relatives remarked on the inappropriateness of the adver- 
tising boy's remarks in such surroundings. 

During the Depression, along came the scientific WPA 
toilet; and with its advent, creative and artistic originality with 
respect to outhouses "came to an end," so to speak. These new 
cement-based, identical, white structures, which allowed for 
chemical treatment and removal of wastes were too advanced 
for Halloween pranks and interior decorating. 

U Encounters with "TDeath 



Death is a topic we seldom discuss in American culture. 
Every newspaper is partly a mortality record of the current gen- 
eration, but death seldom appears on the editorial page. After all. 
what importance could it have in a youth-oriented society? 
Besides, who wants to be reminded of his own mortality? 

Death threatens us, so we avoid it, forget it, deny it. But 
we shouldn't. It is a profound subject that is simply too impor- 
tant to what we value most: living well. 

Cultural change has helped to remove death from our 
consciousness. In the late twentieth century, the dying are 
withdrawn from us, into the hands of medical science, and 
death often comes after a long period of institutionalized care. 
Widely separated family members are frequently not involved 
in their loved one's last days. No wonder dying is often a lonely 

Across the country, high school and college courses in 
"Death and Dying" have been developed, to acquaint young 
people with the psychological, religious-philosophical, and 
cultural aspects of the end of life. Perhaps that is necessary in 
a nation where death seems so remote and unreal. 

But things used to be different. As Martha K. Graham 
reveals in "A Death in the Family," and Evelyn Korte shows in 
"A Wool Dress for Ma," there was greater awareness of death 
years ago because extended families included older members 
in the home. And beyond that, Eva Baker Watson is surely 
right: "Funerals Were a Community Affair." Rural and small- 
town residents were more closely involved with each other 
than they are today, so the passing of a local person was apt to 
have community-wide impact, and funerals elicited greater 
interest and a deeper sense of obligation. 

Local cemeteries also received more attention years ago. 
Memorial Day was a big event in many small towns, and cere- 
monies were often held in the community cemetery. Also, 
rural and small-town burying grounds were frequently visited 

by local residents who felt connected to them. Strolling 
through nearby graveyards was, in fact, a kind of solemn recre- 
ation, which had social, religious, aesthetic, and personal 

As the writings by Esmarelda T. Thomson and Al 
Hartman reveal, there are still those who take an interest in 
such places. In fact, the rapid growth of genealogy in America 
during the past two decades has led to an enormous renewal of 
interest in cemeteries, which are a major source of family 
information. And there is increasing interest in maintaining 
old cemeteries, which are important points of contact with 
local tradition. 

Graveyards offer a kind of encounter with death — as a 
universal reality if not a personal experience — so there are 
things to be learned from them, aside from genealogical infor- 
mation. As they reveal, life is oriented toward death, so we 
ought to use our time well and avoid the trivia that too often 
clutters our days. And like the people who lie beneath the 
headstones, we too will be remembered. Each of us should ask 
himself or herself: For what? 

Historically, death is one of the two most common topics 
in literature. The other is love. Perhaps that is no accident. 
After all, people are precious to each other because they are as 
mortal as the flowers. In the long history of man, death may be 
the mother of our humanity. To put it another way, the end of 
life is important because it prompts us to think, compels us to 
act, and provokes us to love. 

As America's population grows progressively older, as 
cancer proliferates and AIDS becomes a national epidemic, as 
medical treatment makes dying a long process, we should 
become more informed, and more thoughtful, about the end of 
life. The memoirs in this section make a contribution toward 
our understanding of the phenomenon of death in our culture, 
as they allow us to share experiences that were often heart- 
shaking for the writers. 

John E. Hallwas 


Eva Raker Watson 

Back around 1920, even without TV reporters, grieving 
people had little privacy. A funeral was a community 
affair — at least, they were in the southern Illinois town where 
I grew up. And before the funeral, the home was open to 
friends, relatives, and curiosity seekers, who came and went. 
came and stayed, and brought food, sympathy and advice. All 
the time watching. 

This could go on for days, for a hurry-up funeral was dis- 
respectful. Also there often was a long wait for the arrival of 
relatives from afar. In such event there was some tension on 
the part of the undertaker about having the body exposed so 
long, what with early embalming methods. One did not defy 
custom, but this was exhausting to families. 

I remember the drowning death of my Uncle Chester. My 
Uncle Hosea in Arizona wired, "Hold the funeral. I want to see 
my brother one more time." The family, already in shock, had 
a five-day wait. 

The wake was held in the home, the body lying in state in 
the living room — or parlor, if they had one. No corpse was left 
alone at any time, and it fell the lot of two or three hardy vol- 
unteers to "sit up" each night. 

Wakes were as much for socializing as mourning, except 
for the immediate loved ones. Quantities of food were con- 
sumed, coffee drunk, stories swapped. A favorite reminiscent 
theme was, "I well recall how, when Aunt So-and-So lay a 
corpse — ." As the night wore on the talk took an eerie drift and 
ghostly tales were told of spirits roaming, of "ha'nts." 

Contingent on weather, road conditions, and the spirit- 
ual leanings of the departed, most funerals were held in the 
church. Sometimes families simply preferred to have them in 
the home. This seemed a warm, loving thing to do when the 
house could accommodate the crowd, for there were crowds. 

The first funeral I can remember was held outside on the 

front lawn of the home. After the sermon the people lined up 
to go and view the body. Mama held me up to get my last look 
at this old man I hardly knew. Children may have been 
shielded from some facts of life in those days, but they were 
not shielded from the facts of death. 

Funerals held in church played to a full house. This pro- 
duction opened well before the actual service. The crowd gath- 
ered early. The signal for a this-is-it hush to fall came when 
the organist sat down and began to wheeze out the first bars of 
"Nearer My God, to Thee." This always made a cold shiver run 
up the back of my knees. 

That old hymn and the overpowering scent of freshly cut 
flowers made a lasting imprint on me. When I encounter them 
even today I'm wafted back into that funereal atmosphere. 

Floral pieces were homegrown, and I don't recall ever 
having seen the abundance of flowers that we see today. If peo- 
ple had flowers in bloom, there were bouquets. If not, no flow- 

When there were floral pieces, women friends were 
asked to be flower "girls" to carry the bouquets into and out of 
the church, and then to the grave at the cemetery. This was an 
honor. But it was quite a workout so only the agile and sure- 
footed were asked to serve in this capacity. 

My earliest recollection of a funeral coach was a 
horsedrawn vehicle, black, with black curtains at the windows, 
and the processions were agonizingly slow. With the advent of 
motorized hearses, things moved along a bit faster, though 
still at a respectful rate of speed. 

On reaching the church, the casket was borne to the door 
by pall bearers chosen for friendship or kinship — and 
strength. Preceded by the minister, it was then rolled down the 
aisle to rest at the altar, with the family following to occupy the 
front pews reserved for them. 

Mourning attire intrigued me. I always wondered how 
the women relatives could appear on such short notice in those 
black dresses, black stockings, black gloves, black hats and 


heavy black veils. Everybody at the funeral wore black, or at 
least somber colors. As the family were seated, there was more 
watching and comments were whispered about how key fig- 
ures were holding up — or "taking it." 

People who had what passed for musical talent had been 
recruited to form an impromptu singing group, usually a quar- 
tette. After they'd sung their mournful numbers, the minister 
read the obituary. This reading was sometimes a fiasco, when 
it was evident that he was seeing it for the first time. At best, it 
took a good one not to mispronounce some of the family 
names. This did not set too well with the relatives. 

After prayers and more singing, he got around to 
"preaching" the funeral. And preach was what he did, usually, 
offering no brief eulogy to calm and console. Often heard was a 
full-length sermon filled with warnings about the tenuousness 
of the life thread, about how it would behoove all to realize 
they might be struck down next. 

Even when there were eulogies, at times they were so 
maudlin and emotional that it was an ordeal for all who really 
cared. One minister I vividly recall was a maestro who played 
on the heartstrings of his hearers. After one of his funerals, as 
people did a post-mortem on the affair, someone was sure to 
say. "When he got through there was not a dry eye in the 
house." Proof of his expertise. 

Besides the tear-jerkers and exhorters, there were the 
diplomats who could be relied on to usher the departed, be he 
saint or sinner, straight through the pearly gates and settle 
him in a heavenly mansion. A few there were, though, who told 
it like it was and let judgment fall where it might. 

A story was told of one such man of the cloth who was 
conducting the service for a reprobate who had passed on in a 
state of sinful unrepentance. In a doomsday voice he said, 
"We're afraid he's gone where we hope he ain't!" 

One minister in my memory, a popular one throughout 
this area, was called to officiate at the last rites for a man who 
in life had left no doubt in the minds of all who knew him that 

he had no truck with the church and its ways. Expecting a ser- 
mon that would give them a measure of comfort, his survivors 
were shocked to hear a pointedly judgmental tone and some 
painfully explicit references as to the whereabouts of the soul 
of the deceased. Needless to say, they were upset and I was told 
they never forgave the minister. 

After the sermon and another song, the undertaker 
opened the casket and people left their pews to form a line and 
pass around for a last look. Sometimes someone in the line 
would feel moved to shake hands with each mourner on the 
front seat. When this was started, everyone thereafter would 
follow suit, causing quite a slow-up in the procession, to say 
nothing of further ordeal for the family. 

Viewers would then reseat themselves to watch as the 
loved ones said their goodbyes. I always thought this was a 
cruel, insensitive custom and was glad when undertakers here 
began directing everyone to leave the church to allow the fam- 
ily privacy in their last viewing. And today there is still more 
consideration shown when the casket is closed before the serv- 

As a painful finale, at the cemetery everyone stood and 
watched as the coffin was being lowered into the grave, 
remaining there while the dirt was shoveled in. 

And yet, with all the bizarre customs and the amusing 
things that went on the name of honoring the dead, t here were, 
at the center, near the sorrowing, those genuinely caring ones 
who gave support. And there was much true caring. 

I still believe, though, that funerals should not be a spec- 
tator sport. Maybe the time will come here that we will accept 
what I feel would be more comfortable: Private funerals. 

All those long-drawn-out community rituals, however, 
may have had a healing effect that we miss today with our lim- 
ited wakes and brief ceremonies. They may have helped people 
deal with death's reality. Perhaps they were therapeutic. But 
to me, as a sensitive child, they seemed to put an added burden 
on an already troubled family. 



Martha K. draham 

When death came to a resident ot'Roseville in the early 
1900's, when I was growing up, the family had no access to the 
plush services of a funeral home as we know it today. The sad 
ceremonies that accompany a death were closely centered in 
the home and the church, among family and friends. 

My mother, Mary King, and my aunt, Millie McCaw, 
cared for my great aunt, Anna Roseberry, during her last ill- 
ness. She had, for years, been one of us in our family home. 

A few days before her death at age 89, she called her two 
nieces to her bedside and talked to them about the many 
events in her life and the lives of her parents, William and 
Mary Ann (Montgomery) Pauly, both buried in Roseville 
Cemetery. She gave names and dates for all her brothers and 
sisters, where they were born, who they married, where they 
lived and the names of their children. She was the last of her 
family, and she wanted to be sure that what she knew of them 
would be written down and kept. Such relayingof family infor- 
mation was often felt by the dying elderly to be their duty to 
those who would survive them. 

Anna Roseberry had planned her own funeral. The only 
decision left to the two nieces was concerning those who would 
furnish cars for the funeral procession to the cemetery. Her 
small tombstone had long been in place, lacking on the date of 
her death, beside that of her husband who had died years 

My mother used to say, "Your great aunt Anna would 
have made a good general." Observing the way in which she 
planned her own funeral, I could believe it. She had qualities of 
leadership and decision rare in a woman of her time. During 
her long life, that thin, active, poker-straight lady had planned 
and carried out a strategy of living that, looked back upon, was 
a marvel. She could be the motive power for almost anything 
she wished to accomplish. She had a real gift for organizing 

people, without manipulating them, and implementing her 
sound ideas. If that quality had not been a gift, she couldn't 
have helped developing it as she took on and discharged the 
heavy responsibilities that were hers during the early and mid 
years of her life. Anna Maria Pauly Roseberry always rose to 
the occasion. 

Anna Roseberry dictated her own obituary. Obituaries of 
that time were very complete, giving cause of death, the degree 
of suffering, and any last words of the deceased. They gave 
church affiliation and details of the conversion from the sinful 
state, and the good deeds of the saved one. They often gave a 
complete family history and many other details. These obitu- 
aries are now wonderful aid to anyone trying to trace his or her 
family tree. 

Dr. Hoyt was called when death seemed imminent, and 
he remained at the bedside in spite of office work and house 
calls. It was customary for the family to gather to witness the 
death of their loved one. When the doctor pulled up the sheet, 
coveringthe face ofthe deceased, it was the signal for the fam- 
ily to leave. 

Several days before, my Aunt Millie had made the crape 
to hang on the front door. This was a long established custom 
which had its practical uses. It signified that there was a death 
in the family. It kept unthinking people from noisily entering 
on frivolous errands, and it alerted friends to the fact that an 
imminent death had finally occurred and that the family was 
ready to receive callers. 

Anna Roseberry's crape was a wreath about twelve 
inches in diameter, made of lavender and white silk and white 
ribbon. In some families these crapes were carefully saved for 
use in subsequent deaths. Not so in our family. Millie McCaw 
had made our family crapes since she was twenty and had 
made her first one for her own mother's early death. 

As soon as the crape was seen on the door, friends began 
to call with condolences and flowers, dishes of food, and offers 
to help. 


The undertaker, 0. L. Marston, had brought the body 
back to our home and placed the casket on its draped carrier in 
the parlor. Wreaths were placed about it. Cut flowers were in 
\ases about the room. In those days many funerals flowers 
were from friends' own gardens. 

Visitors remarked how nice and how natural Anna 
Roseberry looked in her gray casket, and she did, indeed. She 
wore a lavender and gray silk dress with white lace at the high 
neck and lace extending down the front to the waist. Her 
snow-white hair was piled up in a bun on top of her head, just 
as she had always worn it. Her two side-combs and her large 
hair pins were in place, as usual. Her thin gold wedding ring 
was on her finger. Her hands were folded, the lace of the cuffs 
falling down over them. I had never before seen her with folded 
hands. She had always been busy doing something. My aunt 
Millie McCaw had made the dress a year or two before, and 
Anna Roseberry had often worn it to church. But it looked like 
new, and it was the dress she had chosen for her burial. 

In those days there were seldom any designated hours for 
the family to meet with friends. Visitors called all day and all 
evening. The two nieces took turns being in the room to 
receive people. For them it was an exhausting ordeal, but it 
was expected that the closest family members should be 
beside the casket at all times. Friends had taken over the 
kitchen, and they saw the family had hot meals served to them, 
so the two nieces had nothing to do but keep their vigil beside 
the casket, and rest when they could. 

There were few tears shed by the visitors. Everyone who 
came knew of Anna Roseberry's long, useful and upright life, 
and firmly believed, as had she, that the dead in Christ were 
with Him in Paradise and with the loved ones who had gone 
before. She had been released from suffering into life everlast- 

Close friends sat up with the dead during the night, giv- 
ing my mother and my aunt a chance for much needed sleep 
and rest. 

The third day, ])eople called until nearly time for the 
funeral service which was to be held in the sanctuary of the 
Roseville Methodist Episcopal Church. Undertaker Marston 
came with his hearse and the six pall-bearers and took the cas- 
ket to the church, where they placed it in the vestibule. Flower 
ladies arranged the floral offerings there. Here people attend- 
ing the funeral signed their names in a register, passed slowly 
by the open casket to view the body, and took their places in 
the sanctuary. 

The sexton had tolled the church bell one half hour 
before time for the service and at the exact time the service 
was to begin. This peculiar tolling bell sound made all within 
hearing aware that a funeral service was about to begin. When 
this sound was heard in Roseville, people often stopped what 
they were doing and spent a moment in silent prayer. Men 
often stopped on the street and removed their hats in defer- 
ence to the one who had passed on, whether or not they had 
known the deceased. 

When the bell ceased tolling, the undertaker wheeled the 
casket down the aisle to its place in front of the pulpit, and the 
flower ladies again arranged the floral offerings. The musi- 
cians had found their places and the minister was waiting near 
the pulpit. Last to enter, the family was slowly escorted down 
the the aisle to the front pews closest to the casket. 

After the service everyone except the family was 
escorted out of the sanctuary to stand outside on each side of 
the wide sidewalk. So the family, for a short time, was alone 
with the open casket of their loved one. 

This was an especially sad moment, a very emotional 
time, for it was the last time the family would be able to see 
their deceased loved one. Details of the physical appearance 
and the dress of the dear one so recently gone beyond were 
consciously impressed on the minds of the bereaved. They 
wanted to remember. 

After a time, the undertaker came to close the casket and 
take it back up the aisle to the vestibule where the six pallbear- 


ers would take it past the waiting crowd to the hearse. While 
the pall-bearers were getting into the next car and the flower 
ladies with the flowers were getting into the third car, the fam- 
ily was escorted past their waiting friends to the fourth car and 
any other cars needed to accommodate them. Several cars 
"were waiting to take any friends who wished to accompany the 
family to the cemetery. 

At the grave-site the service was about like it is today. But 
with the minister's words, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," the 
family could see and hear the clods of fresh earth as they were 
thrown into the grave, thudding on the closed casket lid. If the 
mourners had not realized before this, they realized now that 
their loved one was gone forever from their lives. The family 
did not leave until they saw the grave being filled in. 

The first Decoration Day following Anna Roseberry's 
death was especially hard for us. We made the sprays of spring 
flowers to lay on all our family graves, as usual. Anna 
Roseberry's was a spray of lavender and white iris. Those were 
the colors we always associated with her. Those were colors of 
her crape and the colors of her burial dress. 

That Decoration day my mother, my Aunt Millie, and I 
were among the last to leave the cemetery. Other lingerers 
were gathered around graves that, like Anna Roseberry's, were 
mounds on which the grass had not yet grown. We knew that 
they, too, had had a recent death in the family. 


Irene Brei 

January 6, 1924, was the saddest day of my life. That was 
the day my mother passed away. She left behind a husband and 
five young children, ages four to fourteen. I was fourteen. I 
remember so well the day of her funeral. 

Those days they embalmed the body in the home and 
then it was taken directly to the church after a few days' stay at 
home, for the wake and visitation. 

The day of the funeral was a sloppy day after the January 
thaw. We followed a horse-drawn hearse. The hearse had a 
window on each side where we could see the flower covered 
casket. We followed in a carriage reserved for mourners. It was 
a mud road, and the horses' hooves made a sloshy noise as they 
pulled them out of the mud. 

As we approached St. John's Lutheran Church in 
Flanagan, Illinois, the bells began to toll a slow, mournful 
dirge. It was so sad, it made me weep all the more. 

Mother had requested that her dress or shroud be white, 
also the casket. It was covered with a clothlike material. She 
looked like a bride ready to meet her groom. She was only 36. 

My aunts' hats were all covered with black veils, and so 
was mine. They took the purple feather off my hat. 

After the service we went to the Center Cemetery west of 
town for the burial, and then we came home. That was the sad- 
dest part, to go home to our empty house. My younger sister 
cried and cried for her mother: we had a hard time consoling 
her. She couldn't understand what had happened. 

It was up to me to keep the household going, but Father 
couldn't cope with it. He started drinking, and was always 
gone. He left us home alone. My mother's folks finally went 
through court and took us away from him. They put us in an 

It was a sad day for all of us when we lost our mother. 



Lilah Peterson 

My grandparents were Swedish, and when they came to 
the United States, they furthered many traditions from their 
homeland. Vividly in my mind I remember my grandmother's 
funeral. This was my mother's mother. The body was 
embalmed and then brought back to the home. The children 
took turns at the watch so nothing happened to the body at 
night. The day of the funeral was a lovely day. A Swedish serv- 
ice of songs and prayer was held in the house. Then we left the 
house and went across the lawn to the cars of 65 years ago. ( My 
parents still had a horse and buggy at the time also.) 

The procession to the church began. There was a definite 
order of relatives — my grandfather first and then the oldest 
child and the rest according to next of kin of my grandmother. 
Relatives of the husband who attended were next, and chil- 
dren were last. This was the line up as they entered the church 
and sat in one section, usually the left side. The minister, how- 
ever, went in first after the casket, then my cousin and I, the 
flower girls, followed by the six pallbearers. The casket was 
not the metal or wooden polished kind of today, but rather that 
of wood covered with a gray plush cloth. The women wore hats 
which were veiled. The veil was a large square of thin material 
that covered hat and face. Weeping was not as noticeable when 
the veil was worn. The men had a dark band over the sleeve of 
the coat placed above the elbow. The veil, the band, and wear- 
ing of black clothing were signs of deep mourning and respect. 
Everything was very solemn. The minister read a long obitu- 
ary and favorite Bible passages of my grandmother. It made 
me feel very sad. 

After the church service the casket, which had been open 
during the service, was viewed for the last time by visitors 
present, and finally when all visitors had done so, the relatives 
again also viewed grandmother. Then when all were quite 
composed, the undertaker closed the casket and went outside 

to the hearse. The hearse was a plain, black vehicle with win- 
dows large enough so the casket could be seen inside. The rela- 
tives then went outside. All of the other people had remained 
outside and waited while those going to the cemetery lined up. 
As the procession left the church, the bell was tolled to indi- 
cate not only reverence but also the age of the deceased. The 
cemetery was about a mile from the church. 

At the cemetery a tent had been placed over the grave 
plot. The grave had been dug by hand by a gravedigger. The 
casket was carried and placed on the grave. Everyone assem- 
bled there. Another service with songs and prayer was given at 
the cemetery. This was grandmother's day and no one hurried 
the funeral. We saw the casket lowered but the dirt was filled in 
later. Flowers were left to be placed on the grave afterwards. 

After the funeral relatives and friends went back to the 
house. Much food had been brought to the home by friends 
and relatives. A bountiful lunch was served, and those present 
remembered other happy days they had spent in the home. 

Thank you cards in black and white were sent to thank 
for flowers and other favors. Many times pictures were taken 
of the flowers arranged in designed wreaths. If ribbons were 
used, they were white and had black lettering. A lengthy 
account of the funeral was placed in the local papers. It went 
into detail as to grandmother's place of birth in Sweden, cause 
of death, accomplishments, and relatives. 

A large gray marble stone was placed on the grave plot 
with the family name on it. Then a headstone for grandmother 
was also put on the grave. Flowers were later planted, and for 
many years pink peonies bloomed there on Memorial Day. 

Because I actually played a part in grandmother's 
funeral, I have remembered much of what happened. My 
mother had definite respect for funerals and felt it was a help 
to have friends and relatives share the loss with you. To her 
death was simply a part of life, and my father shared her feel- 
ings. My own early acceptance of death paved the way for the 
writing of this account. 



Bette Adams 

Family funerals stand out in my mind. Deceased loved 
ones were mourned at home. The big house that was Grand- 
■ma's made it possible to have the casket in the parlor, with the 
living room and sitting room offering ample space for friends 
and relatives. 

It was a time for gathering together — tears blended in to 
laughter and back to tears again. It impressed me, a small 
child, and while I did not know it then, the experience pre- 
pared me for a later realization of how closely allied tears and 
laughter, sadness and happiness are. 

My child's mind absorbed the sad mystery of death. I was 
used to large family gatherings where laughter and fun domi- 
nated. I remember the German songs being led with gusto by a 
great uncle who had a glorious voice and knew it. He would 
lead the crowd with much hand waving and chest heaving. 
Ours was a loving, noisy group. The children would play hide 
and seek, making full use of the delightful hiding places in the 
grand old house. 

Then the food would be brought out. Long rows of picnic- 
type tables set up in the basement would be loaded with all 
sorts of goodies. We all ate together and I remember loving to 
hear the toasts made to each other for some achievement. How 
we would clap! 

The first time I went to Grandma's house for a funeral I 
was about eight years old. Great Grandpa Kordt had finally 
slipped peacefully away after 86 turbulent years. He had been 
cared for by Grandma for a long time and was absorbed into 
the household as its senior member. I was afraid of him 
because of his long beard which reached a length of at least 20 
inches. I remember thinking, as I viewed him in his casket, 
that it was the first time I had ever seen his beard without soup 
or whipped cream. 

It was spooky — we would tiptoe to the doorway and view 

him long distance; then ever so gradually we walked closer. By 
the day of his funeral we were walking right up to the casket, 
trying to understand the great mystery of death. 

The wake was held for two nights then; and in between 
times there would be visiting and reminiscing about all the 
good things Great Grandpa had done. His feisty ways were not 
mentioned, as though he had gained instant sainthood by 
dying. I was hearing respect, but was too young to analyze it at 
the time. 

Custom deemed the family keep an all-night vigil with 
the deceased loved one, so the men and women would take 
turns for the two nights. My cousins and I would be allowed to 
stay up with the grown-ups. That was a treat for one who had a 
strictly enforced 8 o'clock curfew. I felt so adult. I joined my 
older cousins on the back stairway and listened to the glorious 
ghost stories they would tell. I remember the chills up my back 
as one especially descriptive cousin told the goriest of tales 
just as the dogs in the neighborhood began howling. What tim- 
ing! Somehow, it all tied in with Great Grandpa, as though the 
universe was wailing its sadness to see him go. We progressed 
on to discussing the gypsies, plentiful in Southern Illinois in 
the 30's. How they tried to get children, and how they were 
seen camping not too far from Grandmas. It never occurred to 
us they were poor and could hardly take care of their own, but 
the remainder of my young life was spent being careful to stay 
away from gypsies. I left these cousin conferences amazed at 
all their knowledge. I believed every word they said and tucked 
it away for future use when I returned home, putting all this 
newfound wisdom to good use with my friends. 

The day of the funeral brought a sense of relief, as 
though it was a climax to a play that had been acted out by so 
many people. We prayed for Great Grandpa and watched as 
the lid of the casket was closed, forever ending any contact 
with life. There were no giggles or pranks then, only a sea of 
somber faces, sad at losing one of their own. Our family loyalty 
was tremendous. We listened to words of consolation and after 


a few more prayers watched as the casket was slowly lowered 
into the ground. I cried my heart out at that point. I could not 
imagine anything worse than being in the ground with dirt all 
over me. 

But later, back at Grandma's, the tensions of the past 
two days eased. Supper was laid in the big room and laughter 
and noisy chatter was heard all over again. 

That was 50 years ago, but the memory remains clear to 
me. Funeral customs have changed and are now geared to our 
accelerated life style, but the personal involvment of years ago 
is missing. Somehow, looking back, I think (Ireat (Irandpa's 
spirit was soothed by our presence. 

We laughed: gramps liked to hear laughter, and he had to 
have jokes explained to him so he could laugh too. We cried; he 
would have expected it. After all, weren't we family? We vis- 
ited and reaffirmed our ties to each other, once more shoring 
up the foundation that was our family. Great Grandpa's death 
was our renewal. 


Truman W. Waite 

It was the conversation in the adjoining room that woke 
me up early that morning in January of 1916. I was informed 
that Mother was very sick. The horse and buggy doctor, that 
my father had called earlier, had arrived. Also Clara Miller 
had come. "Aunt Clara," as she was known to everyone in the 
community, was a spinster. Like many other single women of 
that time, she devoted her hfe to helping others and was 
always willing to go to anyone in need. 

While mother had not been too well since the birth of my 

younger sister, I was too young to realize how serious she was 
that morning. However, I was apprehensive when I observed 
the doctor referring to a book that he had brought with him 
that night. The title of that book was "A Hand Book of Ther- 

My brother Ralph, who was eight years old, and I left for 
school, while my older sister Ursula, age fourteen, stayed 
home to care for our younger sister Esther, who was only eight 
months old. 

It was near three o'clock when one of our neighbors 
asked for my brother and me to get home as soon as possible. 
As soon as we left the schoolhouse I could hear my father 
weeping in the distance. I had never heard him weep before, 
and I knew then what had happened. Mother had passed away. 

In a short time other neighbors arrived. "Aunt Clara" 
and another woman bathed my mother's body. A wide board 
about six feet in length, which was found in the hay loft, was 
placed in the parlor with a chair to support each end. Upon 
this board the body of my mother was layed out and covered 
with a white sheet. 

It was a warm day, the snow was melting, and with the 
frost leaving the ground, the dirt roads became very soft. The 
undertaker from Mendon, which was eleven miles away, did 
not arrive until late that night to prepare my mother's body for 
burial and to make arrangements for the funeral. Before leav- 
ing that night, he placed a piece of black crepe on the front 
door as a sign of mourning in our home. 

The funeral was postponed due to the creek overflowing 
the valley and covering the road to the cemetery. Each day 
before the funeral, many of our neighbors came to our home to 
express their sympathy and offer any assistance that was 
needed. Each evening there was always someone to sit up with 
my mother's body. 

The undertaker arrived the morning of the funeral with 
the casket in a spring wagon instead of the hearse. There were 
no flowers on Mother's casket because it was January and the 


nearest i'lorist was twenty miles away. 

The lay minister, A. C. Ament, who conducted the serv- 
ices, was a neighbor that had retired from farming. He read 
the obituary, and among the things included was her age: 
thirty-eight years, eleven months, and eight days. A quartet of 
neighbors, accompanied on the parlor organ by one of my 
eighth grade schoolmates, sang two songs. One was a favorite 
of my mother's, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." 

After the services, the casket was placed in the wagon 
and covered with a canvas before starting to the cemetery, five 
miles away. 

When we arrived at the cemetery the casket was removed 
from the wagon, carried to the grave, and set down on two 
small timbers that were placed across it. After the commital 
service conducted by Mr. Ament, three heavy straps were 
placed under the casket with a pallbearer on the end of each 
strap. The casket was then raised to remove the timbers, and 
then it was lowered slowly into the grave. 


Evelyn Jenning.'i Korte 

It was on a cold winter night many years ago, that my 
grandmother, whom we called "Ma," had come to our house to 
spend the winter. Our house wasn't home to her, as she had 
always stayed with my uncle. That is where she had raised her 
children and where her bed was. 

This winter had been one of those 20 degrees below zero 
ones that we sometimes have in Southern Illinois. On many 
other nights we had been called to come, when Ma was sick, so 
Mother and Dad and we three girls would take off in the "Star" 

car. About thirty miles down there, on muddy roads, was a 
pretty long trip, with some hazards. When we got there Ma 
was usually better. So we would have a good visit with our rela- 

One such night we got stuck in a mud hole. The battery 
wouldn't start the car. Dad jacked up the free back wheel and 
turned it until it started. 

Ma had come in the early part of the fall to spend the 
winter. We had a coal heating stove so our house was warmer 
than my uncles. Ma slept all winter on a "cot" in the dinning 
room where the stove was, and Mother sat by her side many 
nights in a chair. She told us Ma wasn't going to make it one 
night, and she asked me if I would make Ma some underwear 
out of flannelette so we would have something warm to put on 
her when she died. 

By the light of a kerosene lamp I proceeded with the job. I 
was thirteen years old. I treadled that old Singer with such 
speed that the lamp fell off the side and broke the stand off. It 
was later set in a larger can and cement was poured around it 
to make it secure. 

A few days later, about 1:00 a.m., a neighbor came and 
woke my sisters and I up and told us our grandmother was 
dying. She thought we should see her. We did, and we saw her 
draw her last breath. It was a natural thing and not something 
to be shunned. 

Next of course the funeral plans were made according to 
the normal pattern. The following day we were at the funeral 
home. I was taking everything in, being a very grown up 
thirteen-year-old girl (at times). Mother came to me and said, 
"Will you please make Ma a dress? They have nothing but silk 
and that is so cold." She bought the wool and we took it with us 
back to the country. 

Then there was the trip to take her back home (to Ma's 
home). The undertaker drove a horsedrawn hearse with two 
teams. The roads were almost impassible. On some of the hills 
large poles were laid across the road to make a bridge to span 

the mud holes. We followed in another wagon, wrapped in 
blankets. It was night when we arrived at my uncle's house. 
The undertaker spent the night with the family. I took a lan- 
tern, went my myself to a neighbor's one quarter mile across a 
field, and made the dress on their machine. It was grey wool, 
with a satin cumberbund. (Mother had good taste, even if she 
couldn't sew a stitch.) 

The next morning the undertaker put the dress on Ma. 
and she was taken to the church for her funeral and then to the 
cemetery. I always felt good that I could do this for Ma. 

When we got back to our own home, we found that the 
neighbors had come in and cleaned the house and washed all 
the dirty clothes. The cot where Ma had slept was piled high 
with clean bedding, etc. That was flowers to us. 


Dorothy E. Ray 

I grew up on a farm near the village of Larchland, Illinois, 
which, when the C.B.&Q. railroad was built and a depot and 
post office established, was supposed to grow into a thriving 
town. That never happened, but it grew until there was a grain 
elevator, a good sized stockyards, an icehouse, a general store, 
where the post office was located, a pool hall, a church, a 
blacksmith shop, a doctor's office, a schoolhouse, and a num- 
ber of houses. One residence had a switchboard and telephone 
operator, after people began to have telephones. 

People who lived in such a rural community were good 
neighbors. When someone was ill, they came bringing food, 
helping to care for the patient or doing chores, and when a 
death occurred the same concern was expressed. If a small 

baby died, neighbor women bathed them in soda water, 
dressed them, and then the undertaker would bring a small 
white or gray casket and lay them in it. For anyone older, the 
undertakers prepared the body in the home, and then the fam- 
ily would go to his office and select a casket, and he would 
bring it to the home and finish his duties. It remained there, 
usually in the parlor, until the time of service. 

The nights before burial took place, several people would 
come to sit up all night so that the family could go to bed. I 
have never known just how this custom started, but I heard 
people talk about hearing when bodies were left unattended in 
old houses, rats would come in and eat small portions of 
exposed flesh. Those who sat up would sit in another room but 
go in several times to see if all was well. A lunch was prepared 
for the sitters, and the coffee pot was kept hot on the back of 
the kitchen range. 

Many funerals were held in the home. Furniture was 
removed from a room or two, and folding chairs brought in. A 
widow dressed entirely in black, with a black veil on her hat for 
some time. It wasn't considered proper for her to wear bright 

If services were held at the church, a short prayer service 
was held at home. Just before time for them to go to the 
church, the procession would drive there, where friends and 
neighbors were already seated. The pallbearers would carry 
the casket in to the front and be seated. The family was then 
brought in and seated in the front of the church. There was 
always many pretty flowers in the summer, some homegrown 
or a spray from the florist which would cost seventy-five cents 
or a dollar. Chosen friends would usually sing favorite hymns 
of the family accompanied by someone playing a small pedal 
organ. The minister always read a long obituary of the 
deceased besides preaching a sermon. Then the congregation 
passed around the casket and then on outside where they 
waited for the funeral party to come out. The family had a few 
last moments alone, then the casket was carried to the hearse 


and the journey to the cemetery began. 

I rememiier when hearses were pulled by horses. White 
or gray hearses were used for children or young people, black 
for older people. They were quite fancy with carvings on the 
outside. White or gray horses were used if possible for the 
-white or gray hearses and pure black horses for the black 
hearses. Usually a very good price was paid by the funeral 
director for a good team of horses. Sometimes it was found 
that what appeared to be a solid black team, when they began 
to shed, might turn out to have some white spots that had been 
covered with shoe blacking, and some very hot argiunents 
took place. 

Caskets were made years ago of wood, covered with a soft 
material like velvet or plush, lined with silk which was puffed 
and shirred and quite elegant. The metal caskets came with 
heavy handles, lined the same way in various colors. All came 
with a small dainty pillow for the head, and the entire service 
cost only a few hundred dollars. 

When you were driving along the road and saw a funeral 
procession, you pulled off and waited until they were gone. 
The men always removed their hats. 

Most country churches had a small cemetery. There is 
one across the road from where the Warren County Farm used 
to stand, not far from Larchland. Inmates of the home were 
buried there if they had no money and perhaps no relatives. 
Also, some farms in our area had a little fenced off place for a 
family plot. 

We had an elderly neighbor and his wife live near us, and 
they used to walk up the road to spend many summer evenings 
with us when we were kids. He loved to tell ghost stories, this 
being one of his best. He told us that one house they have lived 
in for quite a spell had a family burial ground and that many 
nights after they had gone to bed they'd hear the back door 
open. It would be the spirits coming back to where they had 
lived to wander through the rooms until daybreak. Needless to 
say, we believed it all, secretly enjoying it, yet scared to go up to 

bed afterward. 

His ghost stories were part of my growing acquaintance 
with the realitv of death in the little village of Larchland long 


Martha K. Graham 

In the early 1900's, second only to the doctor, the under- 
taker was called to the scene of death. The preacher somehow 
knew and came without being called. In a small town these 
men were usually long-time friends of the family. They felt 
keenly the death of the deceased and shared the grief of the 

At the turn of the century, 0. L. Marston, as a young 
man, had established himself as undertaker in the Roseville 
community, and he continued this service until his later years. 
The Marstons were good friends of my parents, Mary and 
Herbert King, who had been among the guests at the Marston 
wedding in Roseville. 

O. L. Marston (Orrin, although everyone pronounced his 
name "Orn") and his wife, Maggie, their sons Leslie and 
Vernon (my classmate), and their daughter Helen lived on the 
east side of North Main Street near the business district in a 
big white frame house with a huge gray painted porch. 

The undertaker was a rather heavily built man, naturally 
solemn, slow to move and slow to speak. He had a noticeable 
characteristic manner of walking — a ponderous, bent-at-the- 
knees gait that seemed to fit perfectly with his profession. His 
natural solemnity, sometimes relieved by a droll sense of 
humor, also seemed appropriate to his profession, but was not 
duplicated in the other members of his family. 


Maggie (I never heard her called Mrs. Marston) was a 
t bin, wiry, active woman who seemed perpetually worried that 
the things she felt responsible for would not turn out right. 
This concern was reflected in the tone of her voice and in her 
hesitant, rather drawn-out, manner of speaking. Maggie was a 
good mother, a good friend, a good neighbor, and the perfect 
helpmate for O. L. Marston. 

There was no funeral home in Roseville, though John 
Lugg had that new kind of establishment in Monmouth. 0. L. 
Marston owned a brick building at the north end of Roseville"s 
Inisiness district, on the west side of North Main Street. To 
this building a body was taken by hearse and there prepared, 
by embalming, for burial. In earlier times this preparation 
might have been done at the Marston home, but not by the 
time I knew the Marston children, about 1916. 

Soon after the preparation Marston brought the body 
back, by hearse, to the home of the bereaved, and placed the 
coffin in the parlor, setting it up on a long, folding metal base 
concealed by a floor-length draped black cloth. 

The undertaker employed no assistant, but friends were 
always available to help carry the coffin into the house. Some- 
times his young son, Leslie, helped, probably only carrying in 
the folded metal base. On one such occasion Marston 
motioned to his son to direct him, saying, "Leslie, walk this 
way." Leslie misunderstood. Walking obediently behind his 
father, he tried his best to imitate his father's rather sham- 
bling bent-at-the-knees walk. Poor Leslie finally gave up. "I 
just can't, Pa!" he said. With the Marstons, even a funeral 
sometimes had its lighter side. 

In those days in Roseville, a funeral was held either in the 
church sanctuary or at the home of deceased. If it was held at 
home, O. L. Marston's duties were over after the delivery of 
the body to the home, until time to transport the coffin to the 
cemetery. The family had to make all other arrangements, 
receiving no further aid from the undertaker. Marston was one 
undertaker who made no attempt to console. He viewed death 

as an inescapable, however unwelcome, fact of life, and 
expected people to accept it as such. But he stood by with a 
quiet dignity that bespoke his dependability. People drew 
strength from his presence. 

At a church funeral Marston was at his best. Solemn and 
dignified in dark cutaway coat and white gloves, with his bent- 
at-the-knees gait , he made a ceremony of moving the coffin on 
its rubber-tired, draped carrier down the aisle to its place in 
front of the pulpit. After the service he wheeled it back up the 
aisle to the vestibule where pallbearers carried it to the waiting 
hearse for the journey to the cemetery. 

The hearse was an elegant black limousine, its high side 
windows decorated to simulate black-tasselled drapery. Most 
of those, who, in death, were carried in the Marston hearse 
never, in life, ever rode in such luxury. 

To advertise his services, 0. L. Marston placed ads in the 
Roseville Times Citizen, the town's weekly newspaper. He 
chose a small, simple, vertical ad, heavily edged in black and 
printed with "O. L. Marston, Undertaker." He had the same 
legend printed in black on palm-leaf fans and placed them in 
the church pew racks along with the hymnals. People made 
good use of them during the long, hot, summer church serv- 
ices, and were free to take them home if they so wished. These 
fans appeared at all kinds of gatherings, especially at the 
uncomfortably warm summer sessions of chautauqua until 
the air undulated with palm-leaf fans. They were probably his 
best advertisement. 

O. L. Marston and his family were well-known and highly 
respected throughout the Roseville community and beyond. 
He was known through his work, not his sociability. Neither he 
nor his wife was socially inclined. They did not "entertain" 
and seldom were present at purely social gatherings. They 
attended and helped with their children's school functions 
and those of the church in which they held membership. Their 
household was plain and frugal and showed no attempt to even 
approach the sophistication of neighboring households on 

North Main Street. 

But Roseville families, sophisticated or not, in their 
darkest hours of trial unquestioningly relinquished their 
deceased loved ones to the ministrations of the undertaker, 
0. L. Marston. He was a trusted and respected friend, whose 
personal dignity matched the solemnity of the service he had 
chosen to offer people of the Roseville community. 


Esrnarelda T. Thomson 

"Doll, it's six o'clock", said my Uncle John, outside my 
bedroom door as he made his way down from the third floor. 
"Come on, we'll get the flowers before breakfast." The stair- 
way sounds had announced early morning movements and I 
was aware of the light coming through the curtains at the east 

It was Decoration Day, 1931, and a vigil-keeping day for 
my uncle who observed the pattern set by his father, a Civil 
War veteran of "Sherman's March to the Sea." This was the 
day of honor for the soldiers who had fought for our country, 
as started in 1868 after the North-South Conflict. It was the 
day to go to the village cemetery laden with my grandmother's 
loveliest blossoms and the large American flags kept for my 
grandfather's grave. 

We picked the huge, marvelously-scented pink peonies 
and the red and white ones of slightly smaller size with small 
ants scattering from the cuttings. Square, wooden frames held 
the heavy heads of these beautiful flowers. Blue iris were cut 
with the delicate yellow May roses and lemon lillies last; all 
were placed in water buckets for carrying down the hill. We 
went into breakfast walking through the dew-covered grass. A 

warm day was the promise of the sun as we left the flowers in 
the vestibule and wiped our shoes on the mat. 

In our morning talk, my grandmother reminded us of the 
day's importance when she said, "Papa believed this day 
should be held just for the soldiers." I looked up to the large 
framed picture over the fireplace mantel where my grandfa- 
ther and my mother, as a four-year-old, seemed to watch over 
the dining room. Both of these loved persons were dead, 
though the spirit of their presence was unmistakable in the 
words of our conversation. It was now the Thirties and people 
were beginning to decorate all of the graves, not just those of 
soldiers. I knew my mother would have flowers, too, and felt 

We talked of the afternoon program to be held in the 
church. I was to give "The Gettysburg Address" and my 
thirteen-year-old heart skipped along swiftly as I thought of it 
and of our family who would come for dinner, stay for the pro- 
gram, and pay a second visit to the cemetery. Thoughts also 
lingered a moment on my dead great-grandfather, a Quaker 
believer in peace whom I remembered for his long, white 

I loved to walk with my Uncle John. His manner of shar- 
ing knowledge with humor and sometimes a bit of satire (for 
which I did not have a name then) was appealing to me. He 
used special names for people and places in the town that 
seemed to fit exactly. He took the lead out of our yard onto 
John's Street with the heaviest load; I followed with my two 
flower buckets balanced evenly. 

We passed "The Professor's" house and had a smiling 
"Good-morning!" At the Christian Church corner, we turned 
east and soon were on the C.B. and Q.'s wooden overbridge 
where our foot sounds thumped over the sturdy boards above 
the two rail tracks. At the center of the bridge, it was downhill 
all the way into the "East End." The "Bert Boy's House" 
reminded me of the popcorn we bought there and the 
wallpainting done by one of the men; it showed corn sprouts 


and growing green stalks spaced over the whitewashed plaster 
in ascending and orderly rows. I also liked to look at Mr. 
Callahan's nursery garden and its weedless black, black dirt. 
Each bit of space was planted with mint bordering the edges. 

We unlatched the cemetery gate and walked into the 
entry space. The familiar names on all sizes and shapes of 
stones and monuments gave the place its special feeling of 
quiet wonder, awe and friendship. The lots had mostly been 
mowed by their family owners. One towering, gray granite 
monument stood close to the gate with its high polish shining 
in the sunlight. Another nearby had been made in Springfield, 
Illinois of cast cement, fashioned as a rough bark tree trunk 
with a climbing vine. We passed many flat marble upright rec- 
tangles with embossed clasped hands and a few with a pair of 
doves as decoration above carved inscriptions. Lambs showed 
on the sad, small markers for infants and children. One impos- 
ing and curious monument was made of two large, horizontal 
rectangles separated by vase-shaped columns. A long writing 
was carved into the top of this marble, table-like piece. An old 
stone on the east hill read a death date of 1841. Short and tall 
obelisks rose from the heavy grass; some were topped with 
spheres and draperies. 

We walked north along the inner drive toward the single 
tall pine tree and set our baskets down behind the large, heavy, 
unpolished granite monument with its simple, raised Roman 
letters on the front and back which said "HUNTER." The 
simplicity of this family stone held my eyes as my uncle spoke 
of the military credits marked on my grandfather's matching 
headstone. To me, the big stone was a connection, a strong 
remembrance between the living and the dead. It was a 
reminder of truths to be unfolded. My uncle placed a tripod of 
flags on our soldier's grave and I arranged the lovely flowers as 
we became silent. 

That afternoon, the haunting notes of "Taps" spread out 
from a bugle; they sounded from under the large group of 
knarled pines on the east side of Table Grove's village ceme- 

tery. Our white-haired pastor. Reverend Nichols, had given 
religious inspiration in his solemn prayer before the volley of 
salute from the American Legion guns echoed over the fields 
and the bugler called. All our dead soldiers were honored with 
the others. Many persons had taken the march down the hill 
from the tall spired church; also cars of people had come. 
Groups lingered in this village of the dead, exchanging news 
and comments on the beauty of the flowers and mentioning 
that "more than ten years had passed since the last war." Some 
of the children sat happily on the low stones; my aunt, who had 
been an Army nurse in World War I, cautioned her small son 
to "never walk on a grave." 

I took John's small, restless hand and showed him the 
cemetery paths shown to me by my uncle. John liked best to 
find the letters of his name on our grandfather's stone. 
Although I did not know it then, the chain of remembrance 
was in motion. 


A! Hart man 

When I was 13 I attended the first funeral that I can 
remember. Grandpa's funeral was on a warm Spring day in 
1930. He was buried in the family plot of the Waterloo Ceme- 
tery. Grandpa passed away in his south St. Louis retirement 
home at the age of 95. My Aunt Lena of East St. Louis had his 
body embalmed and laid out in a casket by a local mortician. 
His body was then brought to our farm home east of Waterloo, 
to lay in state in the front room for a day and a half until the 
funeral. The Waterloo undertaker handled all the local 


It was not until 1935-1936 that funeral homes came into 
general usage locally. 

An 1865-1895 business ledger of a Maeystovvn. Illinois 
cabinet-maker reveals many aspects of funerals and burials in 
the late 1800's and early 1900's. I've given the old day book 
"much study. It is written in old German script, with a quill pen 
and in a beautiful hand. Nevertheless, it is hard to translate. It 
lists the names of the deceased, the description of the coffin 
( most entries are coffins), the price, and the family member or 
person handling the details and payment. 

The German word for coffin is "sarg," -with a soft "g." 
The German words for hearse, grave and cemetery are 
"leichwagen" (funeral wagon), "grab" and "Kirch hof" (church 
yard). Our previous minister, Rev. Otto Bassler, who preached 
German services, called it "Stadt hof" (town yard), since it was 
a city cemetery for all denominations. Incidently, its location 
was just about the highest point in the county. 

A coffin for infants and small children cost $1.50 to 
$3.00— $8.00 to $15.00 for larger sizes, and up to $25.00 or 
$35.00 for large sizes and ornateness. A large coffin with velvet 
lining and a glass window in the top of the lid cost $30.00. 
There were also entries in the book as to rental of a horse- 
drawn hearse from a livery stable — wreaths, gloves, crepe, rib- 
bons, arm bands, etc. An 1881 complete funeral cost $75.00. 
The entries, over a period of years to 1895, include: 
1 casket, large with velvet box and handles $15.00 
1 casket, small 2' 3" and cover 4.00 

1 casket, small 2' 10" and cover 4.50 

1 carpet runner .50 

1 made wreath 1.00 

The word "bezahlt" meant "paid." Sometimes payments 
were made over a period of time, and not always in dollars: 
1890-1891 Received in payment 

March 24 13 bushels of corn 

May 5 25 bushels of corn 

July 28 25 bushels of corn 

August 29 20 bushels of corn 

.January 2, 1891 20 bushels of corn 

and — sometimes a barrel of wine was used as payment! 

Each time I study and translate the ledger I find some- 
thing new. The entries took place over 20 years. My transla- 
tion might take as long if I'd persist! 

The earliest settlers buried their own dead. Sometimes 
neighbor ladies washed and dressed the dead and prepared 
them for burial. A home made coffin was assembled and burial 
was in a plot near the home. There ware scores of such ceme- 
teries in Monroe County and occasionally hunters find more 
by stumbling over a gravestone. Some cemeteries have 
inscribed stones; others are field stones, marked with a simple 
"X" — with a variety of "in-betweens." Schroeder Cemetery, 
northeast of Waterloo, which has 30 or so graves, is composed 
entirely of field stones. 

Ox carts and farm wagons were used to carry the coffins 
some distance. The wagons were not long enough, so the regu- 
lar seat was removed from the box wagon, and the driver sat on 
the end of the coffin to drive the team. 

As my Uncle George related, the fence lines of some 
farms were full of infant burials. The infant death rate, espe- 
cially during epidemics was very high. The hedge fences 
(Osage orange trees) were thickly planted and very dense, and 
with thorns, to keep in livestock. Sometimes they were 10'- 15' 
wide. Some of these hedge fences were still being bull-dozed 
out in the past 20 years, with traces of graves still evident. 

A historic-minded friend. Bill Oldendorph, was a great 
hiker and hunter, and knew the county like the back of his 
hand. He led Alfred Mueller and myself across a field south- 
west of Maeystown to the old Hesterberg Cemetery. He was 85 
at the time. 

It was Fall, and the field was full of a white blooming 
herb, known as "boneset." As we walked across the fallow field 
Bill extolled the merits of boneset for healing sores and 
wounds. The cemetery was in a woods corner. There seemed to 

he about 100 or more graves, mostly fallen and prone stones, 
covered with fallen and rotten trees, vines, leaf mold and 
moss. Most of the stones were broken or partly hidden and 
hard to read, but a few were clear and distinct. The names were 
English and Scotch-Irish, like McMurtry and Billon. One Dan 
McMurtry's epitaph read as follows: 

"Remember Friend, as you walk by — 

As you are now, so once was I 

As I am now, so you will be — 

Prepare for death, and follow me." 
Bill Oldendorph, added two lines, in rhyme — 

"To follow Thee I'll not consent 

Until I find out where Thee went." 
I've found the same epitaph on newer stones in well-kept 
cemeteries such as the beautiful Madonnaville Cemetery. 

.Another epitaph I recall is on Ninian Moore's grave, on 
t he cemetery hill southwest of our home. The Moores were the 
first American settlers of Waterloo (then Bellefontaine), and 
Ninian was a second generation son who died at ."xS. The epi- 
taph is as follows: 

"Afflictions sore, long time he bore. 

Physicians were in vain 

'Til God did please to give him ease 

And free him from his pain." 
The Moore Cemetery is an unrecorded tract. There is no 
record of it in the Court House. When we were restoring the 
stones, inscriptions and sculptural art, we found an Indian 
grave there, which suggested that it had been an Indian burial 
ground before the white settlers came. 

New Design Cemetery in central Monroe County was 
restored by the late Baptist minister Rev. L. L. Leininger of 
O'Fallon. The New Design settlement was founded by an anti- 
slavery group headed by James Lemen. He, and his friend 
Thomas Jefferson, developed the "New Design idea" for this 
"far western settlement." Lemen brought in a Baptist 
preacher, David Badgely, to found the church in 1796. But 

alas, the nearness of the slave owners in the adjacent Ameri- 
can Bottom drove many of this high-minded settlers north- 
ward to the "Land of Goshen" at CoUinsville and O'Fallon — 
including the Badgelys and many of the Lemens. Warren 
Smith and Rex Franklin, southern Illinois historians, 
delighted us by touring cemeteries with us. The two gentlemen 
from Fergennes, Illinois took us to an old abandoned cemetery 
in a woods corner just off Hartman Lane, southwest of 
O'Fallon. It was on the site of the old Badgely homestead, and 
Billons and Badgelys are buried there. Again, we cleared away 
fallen trees, vines, leaf mold and moss to uncover two side by 
side gravestones, flush with the ground. Scrapingoff the moss 
from the black stones, the inscriptions were quite clear and 
unworn, as follows: 

"In Memory of Rev. David Badgely — born in Essex Co. 
N. J. Nov. 5, 1749. Immigrated to Hardy Co., N. C. in 1768. Vis- 
ited Illinois in 1796, and constituted the first Baptist Church 
on the Territory. In 1797 immigrated to Illinois. Died Dec. 16, 
1824. Peace to His Memory." 

"Rhoda Badgely — consort of David Badgely. Born in 
Essex Co. N. J. Oct. 7, 1752, Member of the Baptist Church 59 
years. Died July 29, 1835, Aged 82 years, 9 months." 

The first American settler at Maeystown was James 
McRoberts, a Revolutionary War veteran. He and his wife, 
Mary, settled there in 1793, and called it McRoberts Meadow. 
The additional stone at the James McRoberts grave site is his 

"Sarah Chance 

Consort of Col. EDWARD FORSTER 

Born Mar. 11, 1832 

Died Aug. 19, 1848" 

Halbert Mueller, who lives in the old McRoberts house, 
tells that his father, while plowing, saw the tombstone with the 
epitaph intact one morning, then after visitors were at the 
gravesite that day, he looked at the tombstone again that eve- 
ning. He saw that a square containing the "D" in Edward had 


been removed. Had a secret recess hidden something pre- 
cious? Like a ring? No one knows. 

Rev. Charles Hellrung told me about his restoration 
work in old cemeteries in nearby parishes. In bygone years it 
was customary to bury unbaptised infants and suicides out- 
side the cemetery fence. This was to denote their state of 
limbo — that they were somehow not fit for burial with the oth- 
ers. In restoring and cleaning up the cemeteries Father 
Hellrung removed the fences so all were in the same burial 
plots. His was an uncommon but humble greatness! 

When Grandpa first broke ground at his new farm east of 
Waterloo in 1865, he inadvertently plowed out some graves 
along the east property line. He reburied the remains, and 
thereafter called them the Saunders graves, after the earlier 
pioneers who had lived there. 

Our pioneer ancestors respected the dead and their 
graves. In Pax Requiescat! 


Edward R. Lewis, Jr. 

Nearly half a century has passed since I came to Canton, 
and for over thirty years no one has recalled the event I want to 
relate, which was once hush hush, a scandal so to speak, and a 
ghost story of the time. The tale is well founded because the 
events leading to the ghostly aspects of the story are docu- 
mented in the Canton newspaper. 

On June 29, 1899, an announcement appeared in the 
local newspaper concerning the untimely death of Edward 
Chell, eight-year-old son of cemetery sexton Thomas Chell. 
Later, the coroner's inquest declared the death to be acciden- 
tal due to a crushing blow to the head. 

The previous day, the sexton arrived at the cemetery 
with his son and noticed that the massive gates leading into 
the cemetery had been opened sometime during the night. 
The south gate was broken from its hinges. It was a well known 
fact that the top hinge had been broken for some time, but the 
middle hinge had been twisted in two, permitting the lower 
hinge to be forced out of position. 

As the sexton examined the gate, he decided that a rope 
would hold the gate temporarily. Leaving his son by the gate, 
he did not touch it but went to the tool house only a short dis- 
tance away to obtain some rope. Just as he reached the tool 
house, he heard a crash, and turning around to see what had 
happened, he was horrified to see the gate lying flat on the 
ground and his son under it. He immediately rushed to the 
scene, and in his anguish and desperation was strong enough 
to raise the 500-pound gate with his left arm while using the 
other to drag his child from under it. The boy was dead. 

At the inquest, the sexton swore his son had not touched 
the gate and was last seen standing only a short distance from 
it. There was no explanation as to why the gate fell at that 
time, unless a sudden gust of wind had caused it to topple. 

One month later, the Canton Register reporter noticed 
some unusual activity in Greenwood Cemetery. The sexton 
was grading and leveling a section which had been set aside 
from the very beginning of the cemetery as free burial ground. 
This was for the burial of those not able to afford the price of a 
regular lot. It was probably the most ideal location in the cem- 
etery at that time, and there had been approximately 200 buri- 
als made in the area since the beginning. When asked what he 
was doing, the sexton replied that he had been instructed to 
level and grade the land to make new and wider drives in the 

Upon further investigation by the reporter, it was discov- 
ered that for some time the sexton had been removing the 
remains of the bodies from this area and re-burying them in a 
trench in a remote section of the cemetery. This land had not 


been deeded to the City of Canton when the Canton Cemetery 
Association turned over the cemetery to the City in 1881, and 
the sexton had for some time taken a lien on a number of lots 
in this area. It was customary then to make a $5.00 down pay- 
ment on such lots and pay the balance later upon delivery of 
the deed. 

This he had done, and he had sold a number of these 
lots for as much as he felt the "traffic would bear." When 
approached by some of the more influential and prosperous 
individuals of this community, he would show them around 
the cemetery and explain that there were few if any available 
lots that were desirable for their particular status in the com- 
munity. And then he would show them the lots which he 
owned. In some instances he sold lots in this potter's field for 

.$200. Others he sold for as little as $40. Within no time at all, 
he had cultivated quite a number of speculators in burial lots. 

The Canton Register editorial stated that apparently the 
plan was to rob the poor of their graves and the rich of their 
money. An investigation was instituted by the Canton City 
Council as a result of the exposure by the newspaper, and the 
sexton was soon relieved of his job. Further removal of bodies 
from this burial ground was halted, but no further action was 
taken against the sexton. 

For many years the story persisted in the minds of those 
interested in the occult and supernatural. The death of the 
sexton's little boy was viewed by some as not just a chance 
happening, but the work of irate spirits, getting revenge for 
the disturbance of their graves. 

Ill Qood 'ioimes and '^ad '^imes 
on the ^arm 



Prosperous times for the American farmer have been few 
and far between. The Great Depression, notorious for displac- 
ing milUons of farm famihes, actually began in the country 
nearly a decade before the fall of 1929, when the Wall Street 
catastrophe struck city folk. Even in pre-Depression years, 
farmers lived on the edge, subject to whims of fluctuating 
markets, capricious nature, and the men who, in Hamlin 
Garland's words, "farmed the farmer." The further he moved 
toward a market economy, the more precarious the farmer's 
existence became . . . and in the Midwest, most farmers began 
as market operations, producing what they hoped would be a 
large cash crop for market, and supplementing that cash with 
home-grown vegetables and a few livestock, milk cows, and 
poultry. When the cash crop or the market failed, farm folk 
could always eat, as long as they escaped eviction by maintain- 
ing mortgage and tax payments. Significantly, most of the 
fondest memories of Americans who lived on the farm during 
the 1920's and Dust Bowl years are tied not to what consti- 
tuted the "real farm work," work related to raising and mar- 
keting a cash crop, but to the operations which, while they 
were supposed to be subsidiary, actually maintained the fam- 
ily: baking and sewing and canning, home butchering, and 
doing makeshift repairs on clothing and machinery which in 
post -World War II America we have come to simply discard. 

The impression of farm life before 1945 given by the 
overwhelming majority of testimony is of long hours of man- 
ual labor, not only for the farmer himself, but also for his wife 
and children, older and younger. In his reminiscences of late 
19th century farm life in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, 
Hamlin Garland recalls taking his place behind the plow in his 
pre-teenage years, and remembers with slightly more bitter- 
ness the long hours of work (up before dawn, awake till long 
after dark) which made his mother and many of the girls with 

whom he grew up old before their time. Garland's experience 
was not, however, unique: farm boys were often pressed into 
difficult and tedious (not to mention dangerous) tasks like 
plowing and cultivating, even at age 1 1 or 12. All farm children 
had chores to perform before and after school . . . and before 
they were old enough to go to school. Garland's mother at least 
spent her time in the house — not, like many other farm wives, 
driving a team of horses (later tractors and combines) in the 
fields. That was before they prepared dinner and supper, and 
hand-washed the laundry, and cleaned the chimneys on the 
kerosene lamps, and all the other domestic tasks that occu- 
pied a farm wife's time. 

So very much was done by hand in those days: corn was 
picked and shucked and sometimes even planted by hand. 
Clothes were made and patched and washed by hand. And of 
course butter was churned, bread baked, gardens weeded, 
geese plucked, cows milked, fences built, floors swept, carpets 
beaten, grain shocked, water hauled and heated, hay pitched 
by hand. The coming of labor-saving mechanical devices, 
especially the advent of the tractor and electricity, are vivid 
memories in the minds of those who experienced them. 

Economic necessity and habits handed down from immi- 
grant grandparents made for a life of great frugality. "If Old 
Man Brunner were God," poet Leo Dangel has written, 
"everything in the universe could be fixed with baling wire and 
a pair of pliers." Baling wire and binder's twine mended every- 
thing on the farm, from fences to machinery to, occasionally, 
articles of clothing. Feed and flour sacks — bleached and 
redyed — were recycled into everything from table cloths and 
dishtowels to school clothes. The washcloth used at bath time 
was probably a piece of worn-out long-john underwear. Shoes, 
shirts, coats were handed down from older child to younger 

For all of its austerity, farm life in early twentieth cen- 
tury America was far from unpleasant. While more sober indi- 
viduals express reluctance aljout reliving the tough times, a 

common sentiment is "Tlie Bad Years Were Happy Years." 
Nor is this notion simple nostalgia. There was a directness to 
farm life missing from most life today: you ate the dinner you 
had prepared yourself, from milk you milked yourself from 
cows you tended (andbirthed) yourself, from eggs from chick- 
ens you had bred and raised yourself (perhaps you had slaugh- 
tered a rooster or an old hen yourself for that very dinner), 
from game you had hunted yourself. The jelly and jam you had 
set up yourself; the vegetables and fruit were home-canned, 
the sauerkraut and pickles homemade. Children played with 
farm animals and with toys whittled by their fathers from 
wood from the grove. A farmer might pay or be paid not in 
cash, but in produce that represented the sweat of a man's 
brow: a truck of ear corn for a truck of coal. Such direct con- 
tact with nature and clear relationships between cause and 
effect have a certain clarity missing from modern life. 

And for developing a sense of community, which is espe- 
cially important to families separated by long and dusty dirt 

roads, television and the modern movie theater cannot com- 
pare with old-fashioned trips to town, square dances, or, yes, 
even fall threshing, with the busy excitement of the arrival of 
the machine and crew, those enormous meals eaten outdoors 
and in great haste, the boom and whoop of the threshing 
machine, the interplay of men and women, people and 

Most pleasant to recall — and perhaps most lost from 
modern experience — are those stories of rural ingenuity or 
embarrassment: stories of trapping skunks to raise money for 
Christmas presents, stories of running naked across a river 
bottom in pursuit of a run-away team trailing an ancient culti- 
vator on a hot, hot summer day, and others. Whatever hard 
work or embarrassment they meant at the moment has melted 
with the passage of time, leaving only a fondness for the larger 
values of community, closeness to nature, a sense of 
custodianship of the land. 

David R. Pichaske 



Vivian C. Workman 

As a child I lived with my grandparents on their farm. 
Two of their sons and a daughter were still at home, and I grew 
up as a little sister to them. Although times were very hard 
during that time, we shared may happy years, and I remember 
them with great joy. 

They raised chickens, cows, and pigs on the farm. They 
worked from early morning until far into the night sometimes: 
indeed it seemed their work was never done. As soon as morn- 
ing chores were finished, grandpa went into town to sell what- 
ever he could. They had regular customers for the milk and 
eggs. Occasionally grandma tried to save a little of that money, 
thinking maybe she would buy something for herself, but it 
always went for some necessity for the family. She never had a 
pretty dress or any of the feminine frills, but I don't think it 
ever bothered her; she was too busy for them anyway. 

We always ate very well, due to the huge garden they 
planted in the spring, and the other products from the farm. 
That garden was very important; I can still shut my eyes and 
visualize all of those tin cans we had hurriedly put over the 
plants on nights when frost seemed imminent. Grandma can- 
ned everything that grew there, as well as all the berries we 
could pick in season. I can almost hear her saying, as she gave a 
final twist to the lid of a canning jar, "That sure will taste 
yummy this winter when the snow flies." It sure did. She also 
made pies and cobblers that "fairly melted in our mouths." 

In the winter we ate a lot of pork. The old black kettle 
that hung out by the barn had many uses, but I remember it 
primarily on butchering day, being used for scalding the hogs. 
That was quite an eventful day. Several neighbors gathered at 
one farm and worked all day long. While the men did the out- 
side work, the women had their duties inside the house. They 
made cracklins and head cheese, prepared the meats for cur- 
ing, and fried down sausages. The hams and the sides of bacon 

were hung in the smoke house, and the sausages were put into 
big white crocks, covered with a layer of lard, and stored in the 
cellar along with the many jars of food, the vegetables that had 
been dug from the garden, and the fruit wrapped for winter. 
Crocks were used a great deal; they held sauerkraut, turnip 
kraut, and grandma's specialty — apricot brandy. I wondered 
what was so special about it until she let me taste it — once — 
then I understood why she enjoyed a nip of it now and then. 

Breakfast was a hearty meal, as the men needed a good 
start for their day. How wonderful it was to awaken to the 
smells from the kitchen: the meat and potatoes frying, the 
homemade biscuits and the milk gravy, fried or scrambled 
eggs, and jelly or preserves from the cellar. Once in a while we 
even had pickled peaches, a favorite of mine. 

You have all read stories I'm sure about the daily trek to 
and from school in cold weather, and the lunch bucket that 
contained only a cold biscuit and a cold egg or piece of meat, 
and possibly a piece of fruit; unfortunately those stories are all 
too true. Although I would rather just forget about the outdoor 
bathroom, it was a necessary part of life. You were about as 
cold as you were ever likely to be when you had to make a trip 
there in the middle of a winter night, but we had a chamber pot 
inside, and only in case of a dire emergency did we make that 

Grandma scrubbed our clothes on a washboard with lye 
soap which was made in one of the big black kettles, and she 
ironed with flat irons, heated on the kitchen stove. We studied 
by lamplight, and we took a bath on Saturday in a washtub. 
The rest of the time we took sponge baths from a washpan. My 
aunt and I wore dresses made from feed sacks. We thought it 
was kind of a game to choose the print we each liked best; then 
grandma made them real pretty for us, and we wore them with 
pride. Nothing in life was easy, but somehow together we sur- 
vived. We were all reasonably healthy, and that was a great 

Along with all of the hard times, were also many good 


ones. On summer evenings, neighbors would get together for 
some homemade ice cream and gossip. The youngsters had 
parties. They popped up big bowls full of pop corn and made 
fudge; sometimes they would crank up the Victrola and dance. 
Boys and girls found ways to get together, even then. 

One of my fondest memories is of the old black pot bel- 
lied stove that stood in one corner of the dining room. It 
seemed like an old friend, as we warmed ourselves beside it. At 
times the sides of it glowed a fiery red. That and the kitchen 
stove were the only sources of heat for the entire house, but the 
house was small and the bedrooms were shut off during the 
day. Oh, but those bedrooms were icy at night! My aunt and I 
shared a featherbed in one of them. On bitter cold nights we 
would burrow into it as we listened to the howling wind and 
watched the snow piling up on the window sill outside. On 
those nights grandma heated bricks, wrapped them in towels, 
and put them at our feet. Bless her, she couldn't have slept at 
all, for she spent the night trying to keep us warm. 

Another pleasant memory is of the big round wood table 
at which we ate. It was the only piece of furniture in the dining 
room besides the stove. I don't know just how big it was; I only 
knew that there was always room around it for one more. 
Mealtimes were cheerful, with everyone talking and laughing, 
and the lamplight shining about the room. 

One of the saddest times I recall was when my oldest 
uncle had to quite school to help on the farm. He had just 
started to high school and he loved every day of it, but they 
couldn't afford to send him. The day he brought his books 
home, dropped them on the table, and cried as if his heart 
would break, was the day I decided there must be something to 
that book learning. 

There were never any gifts for birthdays, for it was all 
they could manage to be sure that we had the daily necessities 
of life. Even Christmas was almost like any other day, but they 
tried very hard to make it seem special. On Christmas Eve we 
hung our stocking, and we got to look into it before going to 

early church. We knew what to expect: a sack of candy, an 
apple and an orange, and a few nuts. Once or twice my aunt 
and I got a little china doll and the boys got a bag of marbles or 
a knife. For me the most exciting part of the day was church, 
for there, off the right side of the altar, the nativity scene was 
always displayed on Christmas morning. I was awed by it; it 
was beautiful with evergreens all around it and an angel hover- 
ing above it. After services, grandpa would take me by the 
hand and we would go up for a closer look; then he would gen- 
tly tell me the story of Jesus. How I loved that moment. 

My grandfather's infinite patience and my grandmoth- 
er's inherent goodness supplied the important elements for a 
happy family life. Even after he had spent a hard day working 
on the farm, grandpa was even-tempered and kind. There was 
so much that had to be done, and they did it without com- 


James B, Jackson 

I remember plowing the fields in the spring of the year 
with a walking plow and a team of tired old horses. I can feel 
the pull of the lines across my back as the sun grew warm and 
personal. Some times I'd kick off my shoes and walk barefoot 
on the smooth firm earth, newly exposed by the plowshare. 
The rich smell of the loam, the black birds following along 
behind to pick up grubs and worms, the sound of the earth fall- 
ing away from the moldboard — how clearly it comes back after 
more than sixty years. 

I remember gathering nuts after the first frosts had set 
them free so they fell among the leaves for me and the squir- 
rels to harvest, black walnuts with their juicy green husks that 
had to be removed and that stained our fingers a rich brown. 
The browner our hands, the higher our status in the closed 

society of the country school. And shag-bark hickory and but- 
ter nuts — bushels of nuts to be cracked and eaten all winter 
long and to be used in cakes and cookies and candy. But the 
reality was in the gathering. 

I remember warm summer nights when we sat on the 
porch in the dark and hstened to the night sounds, the horses 
moving in their stalls, the insects singing monotonously, the 
katydid's harsh statement repeated mindlessly over and over. 
Then a far off whippoorwill or a night hawk swooping low with 
a zooming vibration of stiff pinions, maybe the call of a great 
barred owl from the timber, or the mewing of a screech owl 
from the cedar tree in the corner of the yard. I remember a 
feeling of closeness that bound us. young and old, together as 
nothing since has ever done. 

I remember a wild blackberry patch on the warm side of 
the hill in the woods pasture, and another near the creek bank 
just north of Macomb. The sweet juicy fruit was as big as a 
man's thumb. The curved thorns reached maliciously out to 
rip skin or clothing without discrimination. The sweat ran 
into our eyes and ears and soaked the garments that the early 
morning dew had not already drenched. But two or three great 
buckets filled with fruit for jelly or pies and black berry dump- 
lings or cobbler made it a happy experience, especially if there 
was some one to share it all with. 

I remember the smell of the school house, the little one 
room school house-yard, Joe Duncan, Walnut, White Flock. 
In the fall it smelled of apples and new books and tablets and 
cedar shavings from the pencil sharpener and fresh sweat. In 
winter the dinner buckets gave off their special aroma- 
peanut butter sandwiches, fresh pork, fried rabbit or chicken 
and rarely an orange just after Christmas. The wet mittens 
drying around the big "circulating Heater" reeked, and that, 
coming led with the stale sweat, coal smoke and dinner buck- 
ets, with an overlay of chalk dust and sweeping compound, 
produced an aroma unmatched anywhere else on earth. Now 
the country schools are all gone, as are most of those who 

remember them. But as long as one of us lives, the smell of the 
country schoolhouse will live. 

I remember Grandpa's barn. Built shortly after my birth 
in 1908, it was the Taj Mahal of barns. It was painted a gleam- 
ing white. It was the largest building I had ever seen — bigger 
than either the Majorville or the Friendship church. And it 
was taller than a house. There were four sharp, pointed light- 
ning rods along the roof-tree, doors opened at a touch and 
then I was inside where the light was always dim and the hay 
and the horses and the cow's breath perfumed the air. There 
stood the eight great horses whickering for their feed. There 
was the white barn owl in the hay mow. There were the barn 
swallows with their deep blue satin coats and their brick red 
vests. There were the barn cats, too shy to be petted, slinking 
away at the first sound of my intrusion. There was the occa- 
sional rat darting from the corn bin across the great central 
driveway. We never played in the barn, not that it was forbid- 
den, just forbidding. Here was a place of magic, a place of mys- 
tery, scary and fascinating and vibrant with life and sound and 
smell where little boys dared not go alone and felt more secure 
if there was a big grownup hand to hold to tightly. 


Helen E. Rilling 

Farm life in the early 1900's was harsh. Making do was a 
way of life. Houses were ill-heated and water had to be carried 
from a well in buckets for practically all purposes. Food was 
home grown, preserved, and then prepared on a black range 
heated with coal, corncobs or wood. Transportation over roads 
knee deep in mud when it rained was on foot, horseback or by 
wagon. Sleds were used in the winter. Much of the family's 
clothing was made by the housewife. 


In bad years worry lines creased the sun-burned laces of 
the farmers. They wore their denim overalls and jackets lor an 
extra season. The patches overlapped to hide thin spots and to 
make them warmer. Rubber overshoes and boots were patched 
with innertube patching kits. They had to be water-tight to 
"wade through the mud in the hog lots. Grain crops brought low 
prices. Much of it was used for feed and bedding for the horses 
needed to farm the fields. There was much hard work to be 
done just taking care of the horses, cleaning the barns, and 
keeping pasture fences in repair. 

Early rural people never wasted anything. Every item 
was made to last as many years as possible, as there was little 
money to replace them. Holes in water buckets and milk pails 
were repaired with copper washers and rivets. Cotton gloves 
for husking corn had new fingers, thumbs, and patches sewn 
on again and again. When the father wore out the knees of his 
long-john underwear, he cut the legs off. These pieces were 
used for wash cloths. Clothes were handed down from child to 
child. Winter coats and boots were bought a size or two too 
large so the children could get an extra year of wear out of 

At the beginning of the school year each child was outfit - 
ted with two pairs of stockings, high shoes, two sets of under- 
wear, a cap or knitted hat, one sweater, and a pair of gloves. 
The boys got a heavy coat, four-buckle overshoes, two shirts, 
and two pair of gallus overalls. These lasted for the entire 
school year. When the children returned home from school, 
they changed to old patched clothes and their old shoes. Their 
school outfits were hung and and worn for a week before laun- 
dering. Baths were taken once a week. Newspapers were 
spread on the kitchen floor and wash tubs were brought in 
from the washhouse and filled with a few inches of warm water 
from the reservoir on the back of the range or the steaming 
teakettle. Clean long underwear was put on if it was winter- 
time. It also served as sleepwear for the children. 

A doctor was seldom called when sickness occurred. 

Home remedies were used. Kerosene, goose grease, hot soups, 
and tea were favorites. Bag balm used for the cow's sore udders 
was a good hand lotion for the cracked hands of the housewife 
caused by homemade lye soap. A peddler sold the farm family 
flavorings, spices, and patent medicines. A blood tonic was 
given each spring to the children. The peddler also sold laxa- 
tives which were administered when children complained of 
being too ill to walk the mile or more to school. It usually cured 
them quickly. 

The early housewife worked hard without any labor- 
saving devices. Bread was made at home and kneaded by hand. 
Butter was churned with a paddle that was pumped up and 
down in a stone jar. In the summer the housewife spent many 
hours canning and preserving. Most wives washed clothes by 
scrubbing them on a corrugated metal board. The water was 
heated in large black kettles in the yard. Clothes were dried 
outside and in the winter they froze to the clothesline. There 
were no toilets in the early farm homes. Narrow cinder paths 
or a few wooden planks provided solid footing from the back 
stoop to an outhouse set behind some tall flowers or perhaps 
the henhouse. 

The early housewife sewed most of the family's clothing. 
Patching work-clothes was an unending chore. She cleaned by 
sweeping with a broom, scrubbed with a rag mop, dusted furni- 
ture with a few drops of kerosene on a rag. The most particular 
job for the housewife was keeping the cream separator, milk 
pails, and crocks sterilized so the milk wouldn't turn sour. 

Children were expected to help with the chores. They 
were taught to take care of their clothing and not tear them 
climbing through fences or up on corn cribs. They knew there 
was no money for new clothes. Children were treated to a bag 
of candy occasionally when there were a few cents of egg 
money left after the father's chewing tobacco and perhaps 
some coffee, rice or beans were purchased. Children had few 
toys in the early part of the century. There were trees to climb 
and timbers to play in. Sometimes there was a pony to ride or a 

boney old nag bought or traded from a band of Gypsies. There 
were creeks to wade and lots of cats and dogs to play with. 
Sometimes there was a rubber ball. A paddle could be whittled 
out of a narrow board and used for a bat. If the father was 
handy with his knife, he made whistles out of reeds and guns 
from boards for the children. There were few trips to town for 
farm families. Money was too scarce for such things as a circus 
or fairs. Children sometimes reached their teens before tast- 
ing soda pop. 

A hopeless feeling often surrounded farm families when 
a prized horse or other beloved animal became sick. There 
were few medicines or treatments to be used and no money 
could be spared to call the "horse doctor." Hog cholera could 
wipe out an entire hog crop. The farmer then hunted for extra 
meat. He killed rabbits and young squirrels when other foods 
were in short supply. The loss of crops from too much rain, a 
drought, or late spring frost caused much hardship. It meant 
clothes would have to be worn for another season and the 
housewife could not buy a much-needed kitchen range. 

But no matter how poor the farm family was, there were 
always those who were much worse off. Hard times on the 
farms touched the lives of many other people. The hired hands 
lived in miserable cramped houses with their large brood of 
children. They came to central Illinois from Kentucky and the 
other poorer states and lived in shacks at one end of most 
small towns. The men worked on the farms as extra hands in 
harvesting season. In the winter they walked a mile or so out of 
town and rode the railroad coalcars back, tossing off coal 
along the way. The coal was picked up and carried home in bur- 
lap bags on their backs and used to heat their homes along 
with what little wood they could cut on good days. 

Those years of hard times bred several generations of 
gritty hard-working Americans. They were the backbone of 
our nation. 


(lux Tyson 

In 1928, my Dad owned 80 acres of land in Scab Hollow. 
He lived up the road west a mile and farmed the fields with 
horses and kept a flock of sheep in the pasture. Then he rented 
a larger farm west of Rushville and wanted to know if I wanted 
to farm the Scab 80. The old shack was in bad shape, but I 
fixed up one room and moved in. I owned a horse, and bought 
another for 15 dollars, and Dad loaned me a three-year-old 
colt. I bought a 16-inch walking plow for 50 cents, a disc for .$3, 
and a harrow for $3 at a sale; Dad also loaned me a corn 
planter. There was 24 acres, all bottom land, for corn. 

Fred Henninger wanted me to help him sow oats, and 
when we got done and he paid me, he also gave me a runt sow 
pig that weighed about 25 pounds. I bred her when she was old 
enough and she had five pigs. John Dailey sold me a large 
Brown Swiss cow for $75, one half down and he would carry 
the rest. When I paid him the other half, he said times were so 
bad anyone who got his money back was lucky and he wouldn't 
take any interest. 

Uncle Geo Parks gave me 100 baby chicks. I put my fresh 
milk in crocks and skimmed the cream off the top and the 
skimmed milk I didn't use I fed to my pig and baby chicks. 
They grew fast and the chicks were soon big enough to eat, so I 
would have fried chicken at least once a week. Most of the 
meat I had been eating was squirrel or rabbits that I shot with 
my rifle, which I always carried when I went to drive the horses 
home or cows from the pasture. 

When the pigs got big enough, I kept one to butcher and 
one to breed and sold the other three. The farm elevator 
hauled them to market in St. Louis. They weighed 220 lbs. and 
brought $3.15 per hundred, but they deducted 35 cents from 
the $3.15 for haulage and commission. Through the summer I 
worked on the house. I put new floors in two rooms, and when 
it was ready to move into, I got married in the fall. 


Dad had a lot of milk cows, and he had one he didn't like. 
He said I could have her if I would come and get her. She gave a 
lot of milk, but sometimes she would kick the bucket of milk 
over. I bought a cream separator and our two cows gave us all 
the cream and butter we wanted and we had three gallons of 
-cream to sell every Saturday. When we got the cream check, we 
bought three gallons of gasoline for 15 cents per gallon, so we 
would be sure to have enough to get back to town, and the rest 
was our grocery money. There were forty hens from our baby 
chicks, and we ate some of the roosters and sold the rest. 

All the farmers went to town every Saturday night. 
There was a picture show, and the stores and barber shops 
stayed open until 10 o'clock. 

When I was a small boy, my folks went to town with a 
team of horses hitched to a surrey. There were two picture 
shows, one on the north side of the square and one north of the 
Penny Store. Each one showed a 30-minute comedy and a fea- 
ture story that lasted an hour. They each showed two shows 
each Saturday night so the patrons could go to one, then come 
out and go to the other. They were always full. It was about 
midnight when we got home and got the horses put in the barn. 

A neighbor from Browning planted a patch of corn, and 
when it was ready to shuck, he had a job in Havana. He said he 
thought there would be 200 bushels and he would let me have 
all of it for .$14 if I would shuck it. I needed the corn, but I 
didn't have $14. Fred Beebe owned a coal mine up the road a 
mile. He had a brother-in-law who farmed at Roseville. He 
told Fred if he would bring him a truck load of coal he would 
give him a truck load of ear corn to take home. He had been 
burning ear corn in his stoves because he didn't have the 
money to buy fuel. Fred was selling coal for 7 cents per bushel. 

We always gave the boys a dime when we went to town. 
Usually they would buy a bottle of strawberry soda pop. If they 
met one of their schoolmates, he would go along and they 
would ask for three straws. 

We lived in Scab seven years. Harold and Dick were born 

there, and Harold started to school at the East Union School 
House on top of the hill. I was one of the school directors and 
Jim Bartlow was the teacher. I still think he was one of the best 
teachers and district superintendants Schuyler County ever 
had. We paid him $45 per month. 

One year I planted a quarter of an acre in soup beans. 
When they were ripe I would load a half load in the wagon and 
tramp the beans out of the hulls. One day when I was cleaning 
beans a neighbor who had several kids came over to the wagon 
and said he would work for me a day for a bucket of beans. I 
gave him a milk bucket full of beans and he helped me cut wood 
for one day. 

I owned a Baby Overland car before I started to farm. 
There were no gravel roads so you had to put chains on the 
back wheels when it was muddy. I soon wore the old car out 
and we drove a horse and buggy to town for a few weeks. One of 
our neighbors had an old Model T Ford car, but it got so it 
couldn't pull the hills. He bought a 1918 Dodge touring car 
that had the top tore off. It could go through mud or hills that 
some cars couldn't climb, but he had never driven a car with a 
gear shift lever and was afraid to try to drive up and down the 
Scab hills, so when he wanted to go someplace he asked Elsie 
or I to drive for him. One day he said if she wanted the car she 
could have it for $15. We drove it a year. 

A neighbor told me the Ford Agency in Jacksonville had 
a Dodge Coupe that was as good as new but was ten years old. 
They wanted $25 for it. My brother Vaughn took me to 
Jacksonville and I bought it for $18. 1 bolted a pulley wheel to 
one of the hind wheels of the old touring car to power my table 
saw to saw wood. I traded so many cars I've forgotten most of 
them, but I don't think we had a new car until we had been 
married twenty-five years. 

During World War II, we tried to feed the world and fur- 
nish war material for the allies, so there was work for everyone 
and wages were high and prices were good. Since then there 
have been several recessions but never one as bad as the 


depression after World War I. 

Franklin Roosevelt was elected president and he and his 
followers organized the New Deal. One of their theories was 
that if city folks could have electricity, country folks were enti- 
tled to it also. The Rural Electric Association was organized 
and they started to build electric lines to every farm house in 
the U.S. at the government's expense, but it put thousands of 
men to work, and they spent their wages for necessities that 
they had been doing without. 

The Farm Home Administration was organized. Any 
worthy farmer who was a family man and had tried to borrow 
money from three different places and been turned down, the 
government would loan him up to .$8000 on a farm. That had 
to be the price of the farm, if the county committee approved 
you and the farm and thought you could make a living on it and 
enough extra to pay for the needed repairs on the building and 
fences and lime the fields. Lots of farms had never been limed. 
If you bought the place you had 40 years to pay for it at 3 and 
3/4% interest. I was among the first ten to get a farm in 
Schuyler Co. I bought a 148-acre farm with 100 acres in culti- 
vation. It had 2 houses, 3 barns, a good hog house and most of 
the fences were hog tight. 

One of the county committee members turned me down 
on one farm. I was forty years old, and he said I wouldn't live 
long enough to pay it off at one payment per year, so I was a 
bad risk. He let a bale of hay fall on him and he wasn't able to 
go to the next farm I looked at. and the other two approved it. I 
paid for it in 17 years. 

The other night Harold and Dick and their wives were 
here and we were all talking about how happy we had all been 
and Dick said he didn't know we were poor because all the 
neighbor kids were as poor as we were. I think all of us agree 
that for all of us even the hard years were happy years. 


Rdbert L. Brownke 

The hard times which I knew best happened the last six 
or eight years of the 2'f postage stamp era, which ran from 
1885 to 1918. I was a boy, doing the work and carrying the 
responsibilities of a grown man. I was born May 22, 1899 on a 
farm in Mercer County. Illinois, the youngest of nine children. 
Dad made a living from this place for many years. He was 
going blind, and by 1911 he could see only to do chores. I was 
twelve years old that spring, tall and skinny with big feet, a 
willingness to work and a lot of experience for a boy of my age. 
I had been doing the chores and a lot of other work for three or 
four years. That year I had to take over the major part of the 
real farming operation. Dad couldn't afford to hire a man, and 
my older brothers were all married and on their own. So it was 
up to me to take over and I was as proud as a peacock that the 
folks trusted me to do it. My two sisters helped me all they 
could, but they had their own work and could spare only three 
or four hours a day for field work. 

We had six horses, good big ones. Dad was very particu- 
lar about them. They had to be curried and fed just right and 
the harness had to be kept in A-1 condition, especially the col- 
lars and collar pads. When the spring work started and the 
horses hadn't been worked hard all winter I had to stop every 
hour or so and wipe and get rid of the sweat and the long winter 
hair until they toughened up. We couldn't afford a sick horse 
or sore shoulders. Everything had to go good for us to make a 
crop; if not. we had to go without something for the rest of the 
year. What we made off the farm was all we had, and unex- 
pected expenses made it that much harder. Mother raised the 
garden and took care of the chickens and turkeys. The girls 
ran the house, did the milking and helped me when they could. 
We worked like a well oiled machine with mother to lay out the 
work. We lived two miles from a country store that sold us 
what we had to buy on credit. We paid the bill twice a year— 


when we thrashed the oats and when the corn was shucked. 

We had a banner year in 1911. The corn made 60 bushels 
to the acre, oats was good and we raised 60 head of pigs and 
they brought a good price. Since Dad hked to buy every new 
thing that came along, he bought our first car, a model-T Ford 
, touring car and then found he couldn't see well enough to drive 
into town. So I started driving and became the family chauf- 
feur for all the rest of the time that I stayed at home. That 
summer Dad developed a cancer on his face and decided to 
take treatments from a man in Monmouth who had a treat- 
ment for curing cancer. His name was Dr. Call. I don't know 
whether he was a legitimate doctor or not, but he did cure the 
cancer in a year or so and it never came back. Quite some time 
later Dad had the cataracts removed from his eyes and could 
see pretty well the rest of his life. 

We had 60 acres of plowed land, five acres of hay, and 55 
acres of timber pasture. The crops were corn, oats and red clo- 
ver which we rotated. Each year we had 40 acres of corn and 20 
acres of oats to plant. In March I would drop out of school and 
sow the oats with an endgate seeder with help from one of the 
girls. Then the field was disked and harrowed and that was it 
until harvest time. 

That left two 20-acre fields to get ready for corn. One 
field was corn stubble from the previous year. We broke the 
stalks with an old railroad rail with a team of horses hitched to 
each end, me driving one and one of the girls the other. Then 
we raked the stalks into a windrow and burned them. After the 
ground was worked down with a disk and a harrow it was ready 
to plant. Planting was usually done by an older man with a 
steady hand and a lot of experience, but I planted my first field 
of corn just two weeks before I was twelve years old. The rows 
turned out pretty straight and I was able to plow the corn with- 
out any trouble. My Dad was a good coach and I caught on 
quick. I was real proud. 

In 1914 Dad bought the first tractor in the neighborhood. 
It was a steel-wheeled Fordson with no fenders. You sure had 

to watch those back wheels. That was a good year. I got along 
fine with the tractor. I loved it. I was fifteen and pretty well 
grown up. It was the fifth day of May and I wanted to plant the 
next day, so I was pulling the harrow and riding along about 
half asleep, kicking the dirt when my foot caught in the real 
wheel. It wrapped my leg around the axle and pulled me down 
off the seat before I could get loose. I had to get to the house 
somehow and I couldn't walk. Finally I got the harrow 
unhitched and drove the tractor half a mile to the house. Dad 
was in the barn shelling corn and couldn't hear me. I crawled 
the last hundred feet and banged on the door until Mother 
came and helped me to the couch. She decided it was not bro- 
ken but it was a bad sprain and the pain was terrific. Dad came 
in and he began worrying about the corn planting. Every one 
else was busy planting and he couldn't see well enough to do it. 
I decided to plant on crutches, so on Monday (this was Satur- 
day) I got started and planted the forty acres on crutches. 
Believe me, it took some doing but I got it done. 

Besides the field work there were daily chores to be done. 
There were three or four cows to milk night and morning, live- 
stock and poultry to be fed and watered, the barn to be 
cleaned, coal or wood to be brought in and ashes to be carried 
out. The "chores" took an hour or more and could not be put 
off. I helped my sisters until I was ten, and after that most of 
the chores fell to me. We had over a mile of fence to keep in 
repair. Dad and I cut walnut posts and then cut the tops up for 
stove wood. I checked the fence about twice a year and 
repaired it where needed. That was my job from the time I was 
about 10 or 11. It was hard work for a kid, but Dad was able to 
help sometimes. 

Our garden was all of a quarter of an acre. Mother 
showed us when and where to plant. In the spring the garden 
took two or three hours of work a day and Mother was pretty 
strict, because the vegetables furnished a good deal of our 
food. We also had a truck patch where we grew late potatoes, 
tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and melons. We picked 


the roasting ears right out olthe field corn. I don't think I ever 
tasted sweet corn until I grew up. 

As soon as cool weather came we butchered six or seven 
hogs. We carried water and heated it in a big kettle to use in 
scalding the hogs. Then they were scraped clean, hung by the 
hind legs and gutted. Dad did this, but the kids carried the 
water and scraped the hogs. After the meat was cut up we car- 
ried it to the smoke house to be cured. We had accumulated all 
the necessary equipment for butchering, including grinding 
the sausage and rendering the lard. By the time we were 
through we were all so tired of meat we didn't care if we ever 
saw another piece. Even now, I don't care much for pork! 

Helping Mother do the washing was another hard weekly 
job. We carried hot water from the kitchen to the wash house 
where Mother had three washing machines. (There were 
always several small children around that Mother was raising 
for someone else.) The water came from a big cistern and it 
was nice and soft. My sisters and I talked Dad into building a 
new wash house closer to the cistern. Then we got a big kettle 
that fitted into a round iron stove. That was set up right in the 
wash house, so the job of carrying water was not so bad after 
that. My brother gave me an old upright gas engine and I 
repaired it and rigged it to the new ABC washer Dad had 
bought. Then we just dipped the hot water into the machine 
and cranked up the engine. I liked that because it gave me 
more time to go fishing or hunting and I didn't have to carry all 
that water. 

We burned coal to heat the house in the winter and we 
hauled the coal from a small mine about five miles away. From 
the time I was eight. Dad and I would go to the mine with two 
wagons; Dad drove one team and I drove the other. I loved to 
watch the big old horse that went round and round to lift the 
coal up from the mine. They dumped the little coal cars in our 
wagons and we shoveled it into the coal house when we got it 
home. We would haul four loads each fall. After I got to be 
twelve years old I hauled the coal by my self in August, one 

load a day. Some chunks of coal would weigh nearly a hundred 
pounds. It sure was hard work. 

Hunting and trapping was part of the winter activity that 
I really enjoyed even though it was not an easy sport. I trapped 
mink, muskrat, coon, possum and skunk with an occasional 
fox. I hunted rabbits, pheasants, quail and ducks but rabbits 
were a staple food in the winter. Many times there would be 
twenty or more rabbits hanging frozen on the clothes line and 
Mother would cook rabbit three or four times a week. I went to 
look at my traps every morning before daylight and then had 
the chores to do when I got back before I went to school. I made 
two or three hundred dollars each winter from my trap line. 
No one thought of hunting and trapping as a sport; it was a 
way to make a few extra dollars in the winter when work was 

By the time the first World War was over in the fall of 
1918 I had had all the farming I wanted. I was sick and tired of 
the hard work and the hard times. One of my several brothers- 
in-law took over the farming and I struck out on my own. After 
nearly seventy years I am surprised at how clearly I remember 
those early days and how much more enjoyable they are as 
memories than they were in reality. The hard times of the 
depression and the ones the farmers are having now were and 
are wide-spread. My hard times were of a very personal 



Vera S. Henry 

The big work horses strained to pull the wagon-load of 
furniture up the deeply rutted lane, and my Dad hollered 
"Giddy-up! Gee! Haw!" as they neared a step grade. From our 
perch atop the furniture, we children got our first glimpse of 
our new home, a two-story white house with a big yard 
enclosed by a picket fence and surrounded by large oak and 
elm trees. 

I was a sturdy, six-year-old, out-doors girl with a mop of 
auburn curls. My middle sister was eight, a thin, delicate, 
pretty girl with light hair, who preferred to stay inside most of 
the time. Our older sister, thirteen, had dark hair, was short 
and chubby, quiet, very adept at sewing, cooking, and cleaning. 
We all had big brown eyes that missed very little! 

Dad was tall with a shock of gray hair that had been 
reddish-blond, and had vivid blue eyes. He was a gentle, hard- 
working person who loved to gather us around and tell us tales 
of snakes that formed hoops and rolled down the hill, or salt 
and pepper ones who could scatter themselves apart then 
come back together to one piece. We didn't believe them — but 
we loved to hear them. 

Mom was a tiny, feisty, loving, laughing woman who 
much preferred being out in her flower beds to working in the 
house, but who, nevertheless, ruled the roost, and not only 
made home-bread every week, canned all summer, sewed all 
our clothes on a Singer treadle machine, but always had time 
to give us a hug or a swat, whichever was appropriate at the 
time. Oh, yes, laundry was washed in a hand-operated 
machine and pressed with heavy irons heated on the stove. 

Our other family member was our big brother, fourteen, 
also a tall, quiet, but not very "work-brittle" person! He had 
dark blond hair and hazel eyes. 

He had gone ahead of us and had the wood stoves burn- 
ing in the parlor and the range in the immense kitchen. As we 

piled out of the wagon and ran into the house, we entered a 
large center room, forever after referred to as the "porch," 
although it really was the connecting room between the two 
ells of the house, one side being the kitchen and the stairway to 
the attic, and the other the parlor, sewing room, the only 
downstairs bedroom and the stairway to the upper bed- 

I ran to the parlor and there it was: our big square 
Steinway piano that Dad always said he'd never move again, 
but which all of us children learned to play by ear. They were 
setting the leather-covered horsehair sofa there too, and the 
corner what-not. I discovered a little chimney cupboard there 
that, from that time on, was mine to play in and hide my spe- 
cial treasures in. 

Mom gave us each tasks to help with the supper. The res- 
ervoir on the range had warm water, so Sarah and I washed the 
dishes. Mildred filled the kerosene lamps, trimmed the wicks, 
set them around the house and lit them. Mom was busy rolling 
out long dumplings to put into the pot of beans she had cooked 
and brought along. This, with big chunks of bread from the 
warming oven on the range, was our supper. 

Dad had put the horses away and came stomping in the 
house. He pumped water from the httle hand pump into the 
metal wash basin, put his face down in it and made a sound like 
"Bow-legged Jones." This always made us kids laugh. Then he 
walked towards the big round oak table where we sat and sang, 
"Oh, she washed her pigs in the kitchen sink! Knickety, 
knackety, now, now, now! The little black ones, they all turned 
pink! Knickety, knackety, now." Then as we ate we all had a 
chance to share the day's happenings. 

Our first night on the farm was a cold one, even though it 
was March. My two sisters and I argued over which upstairs 
bedroom we got, then finally climbed in on the soft feather 
ticks and pulled the heavy comforters over us. There was no 
heat upstairs except the bit that found its way from the parlor 


We children bundled up the next morning and Dad 
hitched the wagon and took us to school. It was to be the last 
time we rode the two-mile long journey. We soon learned to cut 
across our pasture and shortened it considerably. Our teacher 
was a man, and he had a fire going in the stove at the back of 
the school room. We all tried to get desks close to the stove, but 
with all eight grades in one room this didn't work. I was in 
grade one, with two boys. The other grades had only one or two 
each, totaling fourteen students. 

Even on cold days we went outside at recess to play fox 
and goose if there was snow, or "May I?" or "Red Rover" or ball 
games if it was nice. Our teacher always took part in these 
activities. On the last day of school all parents came; we set up 
long tables in the school yard and had a bountiful picnic, 
played games and sang songs. 

Each day on the farm was a new experience, as we had 
always lived in Pekin, Illinois before moving to Fulton County. 
We explored the pasture and woods, the big red barn with 
loose hay in the loft and pigeons cooing in the rafters. Stalls 
for horses and cows were below and the barn had a spicy, sweet 
smell, a mixture of all these things. 

There was also a big corn crib, and you could see the ears 
through the slats. A smoke house for butchering days, and ice 
house we never used, a chicken house with Rhode Island Reds 
and Leghorns. Mom always "set" her hens, sometimes with 
duck eggs. Then the poor mother would be frantic when the 
little ones decided to go to the creek and swim. 

I loved following my Dad as he drove a team of horses, 
the reins over his shoulder and around his neck, as he guided 
the plow that turned over great rows or rich soil. Huge white 
clouds billowed in the blue sky, a sound of turtle doves 
carressed my ears, and joy was complete. 

Threshing days were also exciting. The big steam 
machine was taken from farm to farm as each farmer's wheat 
ripened. Workers had cut and shocked the wheat, making 
stacks. Men would toss these on a rack, haul them to the 

thresher and feed them into it , and the yellow straw and wheat 
were separated and stored. 

All the women and kids would be busy getting a meal 
ready: chicken, beef, dumplings, homemade bread and pies, 
home canned vegetables and fruit, pickles of every kind, sal- 
ads and cakes. Usually the food was placed on tables in the 
yard and the men ate first, then the kids, then the women. 

I remember one day we had been to our neighbors help- 
ing on threshing and we kids had gone for a walk. A cyclone 
came up suddenly, scaring all of us, as the wind whipped the 
trees and bushes around us. We ran like frightened deer back 
to the house and found tables overturned, dishes broken and 
food everywhere. When we got back to our own farm our corn 
crib was flattened, but we felt lucky this was the only damage. 
My Dad and brother started cleaning up, and this was just 
another day on the farm. 

Putting up hay was also a favorite time, for I got to lead 
the hay horse. When the hay rack loaded with loose hay came 
in the barn, a large hook was firmly placed in it. Then as I led 
the horse, a rope from him to the hook and over a high rafter 
would swing the hay up in the air and over to the loft. Workers 
would mow it back, usually a hot dirty job. 

Our "porch" was the entertainment center, and was the 
scene of many neighborhood square dances and song tests. My 
sister and I were always asked to harmonize such old favorites 
as "Juanita," "Doodle-Doo," "Shine on Harvest Moon," "Who 
Broke The Lock on the Hen-house Door?" and many others. 

These years on the farm were very decisive in forming 
my love of nature and all outdoors, and in giving me memories 
to be treasured forever. 



Marie Freesmeyer 

The early years of my life were spent on a farm in 
Calhoun County during the first part of the century. Those 
were not difficult times as were the Depression years and 
those during World War II, but, like most families of that era, 
we practiced strict economy. Our philosophy was, "Use it up; 
wear it out; made do; or do without." By today's standard, we 
experienced "Hard Times on the Farm." 

The term "recycling" had not yet been coined, but we 
practiced it in the strictest sense of the word. We recycled 
everything from baling wire to lace curtains. Nothing was 
thrown away until it had been used at least once after its origi- 
nal purpose. "Save it; it might come in handy" was our motto 
then and is still mine today. 

Take baling wire, for instance. This heavy wire, as the 
name signifies, was used to tie bales of hay. When the two 
wires were cut in order to feed the hay to the livestock, they 
were carefully put away for future use. The pieces were used 
for mending fences, machinery, tools and furniture; for secur- 
ing latches, crates, gates, sidecurtains (on rigs and cars) and 
tarpaulins. Most everything was either temporarily or perma- 
nently fixed by using this versatile wire and a pair of pliers. 

Binder twine, that coarse, heavy string made from hemp 
fibers, was purchased by wheat farmers in huge balls to use in 
their binders at harvest time. This useful twine served many 
purposes after the original one. If kept dry, it lasted for years 
and was used over and over. It came in mighty handy for tying 
sacks, gates, chicken coops, bundles, harness, and even an 
occasional suspender. 

Cotton string which the grocer used to tie most all the 
commodities he sold was never discarded. Why, that string 
was carefully wrapped into a ball and occupied an important 
place in the "what-not drawer." We used pieces many times 
each day. When a 50-lb. sack of flour or an occasional 100-lb. 

sack of sugar was purchased, we carefully unraveled the string 
with which it was sewn. By starting at just the right place, we 
obtained two long pieces of good string to add to the ball. What 
did we do with all this string? To quote Robert Browning, 
"How can I count the ways?" With no adhesive tape, paper 
clips, or rubber bands, string had to serve a multiplicity of 
uses. What really took its toll on our collection was when some 
child wanted enough for his kite or the outside of a ball. 

These same flour and sugar sacks, when emptied, were a 
good source of useful cotton material. The flour sacks had let- 
ters and a rose or other design stamped in bright colors. This 
coloring had to be coaxed out before the material was usable. 
To do this. Mother applied a generous portion of coal oil 
(never referred to as kerosene), rolled it up, and allowed it to 
remain for several hours. After another soaking in a strong 
suds made with lye soap and boiling, most of the coloring dis- 
appeared. Oh, you might be able to still see traces of the letter- 
ing, "Mothers' Best" or "American Beauty" for a while. 
Perhaps the large red rose was the most stubborn of all, but 
repeated washings and drying on the grass in the hot sunlight 
bleached them nicely. All that effort paid off as it produced a 
large square of white muslin for free. Four of these pieces sewn 
together made a table spread which lasted for years. With a bit 
of turkey red pearl cotton thread. Mother ornamented the feld 
seams with a pretty feather stitch. This sack material was also 
used for making petticoats, children's undergarments, gowns, 
and even pillowcases. All our dishtowels were made by hem- 
ming material from either flour or sugar sacks. The sugar 
sacks were much larger but were of a thinner, unbleached 
material. They, too, had many uses besides for dishtowels. 

Though they came at a later date, I can't overlook the 
printed feed sacks, which were the housewife's delight. House- 
wives, including myself, found an opportunity to recycle in a 
big way. We even sent along pieces we wished to match when 
our husbands went to purchase more feed. We outdid our 
mothers in our ingenuity for finding ways to use this colorful 

material. We made it uj) into aprons, dresses, gowns, taljle- 
cloths, curtains, and many other things. Wear? Things from 
these feed bags wore like iron! In fact, the same material was 
recycled several times and finally ended up as cleaning cloths. 

Worn bed linens (always cotton muslin) were always 
recycled. This soft material made excellent handkerchiefs to 
be used by children or anyone with a cold. Rolls of sterile 
pieces were kept on hand ready to be used for binding wounds. 
Strips were torn for bandages and for securing splints and 
making slings. Numerous sterile pads were made for the sick- 
room. In summer, squares of this thin material were used to 
strain the juice from fruit for making jelly. Mother made her 
sausage sacks from strong portions. If the available quantity 
exceeded all these uses, this white material went through a dye 
bath and added bright colors to the rolls of carpet rags. 

Everyone has at sometime made over garments, but we 
saved every worn or outgrown one found uses for parts or the 
whole. I received a thorough education in this art, as did most 
girls. No girl was ready for marriage until she was able to cut 
an appropriate patch from discarded overalls or pants and 
neatly apply a patch to a torn or worn pair. We made aprons, 
blouses, and most all the children's clothes from discarded 
adult clothing. Then we cut off all buttons, trimming and fast- 
eners to be used later. What went into our rag box were really 
rags! These, too, were used. Woolen clothes were cut into 
squares to be used for making comforters. All other rags were 
cut into strips and sewn together for carpet rags. White slips 
and shirts were dyed then cut into carpet rags. Knitted under- 
wear was patched and mended but had to eventually be 
replaced with new. The discarded ones were laundered and cut 
into wash cloths, dishrags, dust cloths, and patches for mend- 

Newspapers! Who could list the many uses for the news- 
papers of that era? First and foremost, I presume, would be 
their use as kindling for the many fires that had to be built in 
the kitchen range the year round, plus all those in heaters dur- 

ing the colder months. They were used to cover shelves, line 
drawers, protect floors, and to paper the out-house. They were 
used as padding for carpets, for wrapping all sorts of articles, 
as improvised fans, and even as extra protection inside of 
coats during severe cold spells. The dishes and crocks of 
vittles were protected from flies and dust by using papers to 
cover them. I have named only a few of the many uses of this 
versatile commodity. Often it was used over and over before it 
finally ended up being used for kindling the fire. I'm sure the 
families in those days would have been grateful for a much 
larger newspaper like the ones we have today. 

This treatise on recycling would not be complete if we 
neglect to mention the all-important use of discarded cata- 
logues (note the former spelling of this book). What would we 
have done without them? Ours was scarcely sufficient for the 
need. We were usually down to the slick, colored pages by the 
time the new ones arrived and we could take the old ones out 

This thorough training in recychng enabled me to cope 
with the hard times which came later. Having married "on a 
shoestring" the year the stockmarket crashed, and giving 
birth to two children during the Depression, I needed and put 
into good use all the techniques of recycling. 



Hazel Denum Frank 

My mother did all the things the homemaker ofthe early 
nineteen hundreds did, such as wash on a washboard, iron 
with sad irons heated on a wood-burning kitchen stove, bake 
all our bread, carry water from the outside pump, sew all our 
clothes— all the routine. But she would also do almost any job 
people wanted done, especially the unusual jobs. 

My dad, Jesse Denum, was Charlie Peasley's hired man. 
The Peasleys lived in the big twenty-room stone house near 
Decorah. My dad, mother (Mary Hudnut Denum), my sister 
Roberta and I lived in the three-room tenant house back ofthe 
big house. 

As I look through our family pictures, many of them 
bring back memories of my childhood. This picture is of 
Mother dressed in her coveralls, ready to go to the cornfield. 
She and Dad each had a team of horses and a wagon with high 
sideboards, and a higher bump board on one side. As soon as 
Dad got his chores done and Mother got us girls ready for 
school, with breakfast over and dishes done, they would go to 
the cornfield. By noon they would have their wagons full. 
While Dad scooped the two loads into the corn crib. Mother 
prepared dinner. After a quick dinner, they would be back in 
the field and by chore time they each would have another load. 
Mother often picked one hundred bushels a day, a good day's 
work for most men. 

Here is a picture of Mother in her coveralls again. This 
time she is picking geese for Mrs. John Peasley. She would 
hold the big old goose with his feet between her knees and his 
head tucked under her left arm. The soft feathers and down 
were plucked off its body and placed in a flour sack. Later 
they'd be made into pillows or maybe a feather bed, which was 
a bag of feather ticking large enough to cover the bed as a mat- 
tress. It didn't seem to hurt the geese, who soon grew another 
covering of feathers. However, they didn't like to be held and 

often left bruises on the arm if they got a chance to bite. 

Mother wasn't always in coveralls. One picture is of us 
four standing in front ofthe kitchen door dressed in our Sun- 
day clothes. We always got a chuckle out of this picture 
because Mother was standing right in front of the big white 
enamel dishpan that hung just outside the kitchen door. She 
was positioned in such a way that it looked as though she had 
on a big funny hat. 

Mother's life wasn't all hard work. She loved to dance. 
There were home dances almost every Saturday night. 
Mother often called for the square dances. For many years I 
had a sheet of fools cap paper listing the calls she knew, and 
they numbered eighty or more. Of course these dances were 
family affairs and we girls always got to go along. 

I enjoy looking at the pictures, but there is one memory I 
don't need a picture to remember. Mother often did the house 
cleaning for Mrs. Peasley. One day when she was cleaning her 
bedroom, I was with her. I was so awed at the beautiful furnish- 
ings and the many interesting things on her dresser, especially 
the music box. In a tray there was a half of a broken celluloid 
hair pin. For some reason it interested me, and since it was 
broken I saw no reason why I shouldn't take it. After we got 
home and I was admiring my "treasure," Mother saw it and 
asked where I got it. I not only lost my treasure, but had to take 
it back to Mrs. Peasley and tell her I stole it. Believe me, I have 
never forgotten that lesson. 

Mother often did quilting, crocheting and all kinds of 
handwork. One of my treasures today is a wide circular collar 
she wore with some of her dresses. It is knitted lace made of 
sewing thread. 

She sewed all our clothes. One dress I especially remem- 
ber was made of flour sacks, bleached and dyed yellow. A large 
rose was appliqued on the skirt. I was so proud of that dress. 

Although Mother died in 1925, at the early age of thirty- 
eight, I have many good memories, either with or without the 
family pictures. 



Truman W. Waite 

Time marches on, but the memories still live ot'the many 
changes that have been made in the past eighty years since I 
was a plain old barefoot country boy down on the farm. My 
earliest recollections were filling the wood box with wood for 
the kitchen stove, taking a small pail of water to my father 
working in the field, and helping my older sister bring in the 
cows from the pasture to be milked. Not long after that. I got a 
promotion. I too had a cow to milk. 

In the fall we walked to school. A hickory stick was used 
to point out work on the blackboards and also to make sure we 
understood what we were being told. In those days if that stick 
was used on you in school, you got an introduction to another 
stick when you got home. 

Quite often when we arrived home from school, Mother 
would have some fresh home-baked bread for us. After a slab 
of bread that we sawed off with a butcher knife and covered 
with a spread of butter, then topped off with applebutter, we 
were able to do the evening chores. 

In the spring, when work started in the fields, I was intro- 
duced to t he walking plow and walking cultivator. Walking was 
not the brand name of the plow and cultivator, it was what you 
did when you operated the machine. It was not uncommon to 
walk over twenty miles during a day's work. 

Later in the year it was making hay and harvesting the 
wheat and oats with a binder. Then it was several days in the 
threshing run to harvest or thresh the grain. 

I was introduced at an early age to shucking corn, which 
was often an every day job that lasted for several weeks. I was 
up early in the morning and in the field before the break of day. 
Long before we had finished, our fingers and hands would be 
very sore and painful from the frost that covered the ears. 
Corn in those days did not yield as much as today with our 
hybrid corn and fertilizer. Sixty bushels was considered a good 

yield and eighty bushels was a topic of conversation in the 
neighborhood. Today yields of more than twice that amount 
are quite common. 

After a young man had served his apprenticeship helping 
his father, he usually decided to start out for himself. There 
was always another, a farmer's daughter, who was ready, will- 
ing, and able to be his wife and wanted to have a home of her 

The courtship, during the winter months, was spent 
quite often in the parlor playing the organ, playing dominoes, 
and eating popcorn. When spring came, it was Sunday after- 
noon rides with the horse and buggy and attending church 
services in the evening. The horse, which had made the trip 
many times before, knew the road home and needed no guid- 
ance, so the lines were wrapped around the dashboard, leaving 
both hands free for whatever emergency might arise. 

When the time came to say "I do," the couple went to the 
courthouse, bought a license for $1.25 (now $40.00), and were 
married. The minister, while receiving only a small token for 
his services, could nearly always guarantee his services. It was 
very seldom for a couple to divorce. 

Other expenses were some candy for the women and chil- 
dren and a box of cigars for the men and boys that were sure to 
meet them at the house that night for a shivaree. 

The cash outlay, other than your clothes, could be less 
than a ten dollar bill. You made arrangements with a local 
landowner for thirty or forty acres of ground. With a team of 
horses, a wagon, and some used tools that you had previously 
bought, you were in business. Your new bride had also had the 
foresight to accumulate some dishes, cooking utensils, and 
some furnishings that she had made such as bedding. Most 
likely a few chickens were included. 

Money was nonexistent at times. We raised about every- 
thing we ate except sugar and flour, which we purchased with 
the eggs and cream. 

Not until electricity came into use, less than fifty years 


ago, were conditions in the home any different than those 
faced by early settlers. Before it was available, we used oil 
lamps that had to be refilled with kerosene and have their 
chimneys washed every day. If the wife was not lucky to have 
ice, and very few were, she hung the butter in the well and 
placed the milk in crocks in the basement. Water was carried 
into the house and placed in the boiler on the wood stove to do 
the weekly wash, which was done on a wash board. For soap we 
sometimes saved wood ashes and placed them in a container 
called an ash hopper. By pouring water on the ashes, we col- 
lected the lye water and made our own soap by boiling the lye 
solution and meat fryings saved from cooking. The irons used 
to iron the clothes were placed on the cook stove to heat. We all 
had clean clothes to put on after we took our weekly bath, on a 
Saturday night, in the old wooden tub beside the warm cook 
stove in the kitchen. 

When electricity came to the farm, it was a different way 
of life. It eliminated the kerosene lamps and both hot and cold 
water was available at the turn of a faucet. The old wood- 
burning stove was replaced with a new electric range, a mod- 
ern washing machine eliminated the wash board and tub, and 
the sad irons have become collector's items. The old wooden 
tub, that was used for the weekly bath, was replaced with a 
shower, and the outhouse was moved inside. 

Over the years there have also been many changes in the 
farming operations. The draft horses, the large flocks of 
chickens, and the milk cow, to mention a few, are no longer on 
the farm. Farming has been made easier by improved machin- 
ery, especially the early tractors that began to replace the 
horses, and combines that replaced the threshing machines. 
With the introduction of hybrid seed, fertilizer, herbicide, and 
insecticides, the yields have increased until in many instances 
they are more than three times what they were forty years ago. 

Years ago when I toiled all day in the fields with that 
walking plow, little did I realize that I would live to see the time 
when great machines pull large plows and others harvesting 

the grain like we have today. I would not want to got back and 
relive my life again as it was in the "good old days." I am con- 
tent to live with my memories and dreams, especially of when I 
had a thick slice of fresh home-baked bread and butter, and of 
the times when I courted the farmer's daughter with a horse 
and buggy in the moonlit nights many years ago. 


Clifford J. Boyd 

This episode took place in the late June of 1930 when we 
lived about one mile west of La Crosse next to Crooked Creek. 
In those days the Lamoine River was appropriately called 
Crooked Creek. My parents, Walter and Olive Boyd, were hav- 
ing a hard time, as most all farmers were in those depression 
days, making the payments on the farm, so my dad rented 
about forty acres of the Johnson bottom land adjoining us to 
the south. Bottom land next to the creek was always a good 
money-maker in corn if the year was dry and the creek didn't 
flood over it. As usual, like all farming, it was a big gamble, but 
this year the crop was good. 

On the day of this incident my dad and I were cultivating 
the corn in this bottom land, but about noon he had to go 
somewhere on business and left me working by myself. Dad 
used a two-row cultivator pulled by three horses, and I used 
the single row cultivator pulled by two horses. Cultivating 
corn was a very tedious and boring job which demanded your 
full attention at all times. You sat on a hard metal seat and 
guided two sets of three plows around the corn hills by using 
your feet in the stirrups and hands on the handles. The horses 
were guided by tying the reins tightly around your back and 
twisting your back right or left in the direction you wished the 
horsed to turn. It was important that you not plow too close to 


the corn roots but close enough to plow out the weeds and aer- 
ate the soil. 

The team I was using, Max and John, were probably the 
worst team in the country for cultivating corn. Max, a ball- 
faced sorrel, was extremely high strung and skittish and would 
run away at any unnatural sound. John, a bay, was not quite as 
skittish as Max but would go along with anything he did. It was 
extremely uncomfortable holding the team from running by 
rearing back on the reins around the back, especially for a 
twelve-year-old boy. 

On this June day the temperature was close to 100 
degrees with the humidity at least SCo and there was not a bit 
of wind. The bottom land was completely surrounded. The 
west side had high brush and trees growing next to the creek 
bank. The north and east side had a high hill and brush, and 
on the south side the T.P.&W. Railroad tracks were built on 
about a thirty-foot bank. The place was like a furnace. With all 
these discomforts the rippling sound of the creek seemed to 
beckon me each time I came to the end of the corn row. Late in 
the afternoon I could not resist any longer, so I headed the 
team with the cultivator into some high weeds and brush next 
to the creek. I next peeled off all my clothes and dived into the 
cool refreshing water. As I broke water I heard Max give a ter- 
rific snort and the immediate tearing down of weeds and 
brush. My heart sank as I knew at once what had happened. 
Not stopping for my clothes I ran to the edge of the clearing 
and saw the team about 100 feet away, running at their top 
speed, dragging the bouncing cultivator behind them. The 
team ran diagonally across the field toward the only gate 
which was open and toward the barn, which was about one 
mile away. I knew I had to somehow stop them before they got 
through the gate or there wouldn't be anything left of the culti- 
vator and harness but junk. Running as fast as I could and hol- 
lering, "Whoa Max, Whoa John," didn't do any good and they 
were gradually gaining on me. Not only were they tearing up 
the corn, but parts of the cultivator were coming off. After the 

team ran across the field, about a quarter of a mile, and up the 
hill toward the gate they fortunately straddled a tree and 
stopped themselves. After getting my breath, I settled the 
horses down and started leading them back, picking up the 
cultivator seat, tools and other parts. As I returned to the 
creek, I remember worrying that the 4:00 p.m. train would go 
by. It would probably have raised some eyebrows and quite a 
bit of laughter to have seen a naked boy running after a run 
away team or leading them back across the field. 

After collecting the parts and putting on my clothes, I 
was surprised that there was very little damage. Each plow 
was attached to the shank with a metal bolt and a wooden pin. 
This was to keep from bending the shank if you hit a tree root. 
All the wooden pins were broken, but I fixed them and went 
back to plowing. About that time the T.R&W. train went by, 
but no one knew that if they had been a little earlier they would 
have seen quite a show. 

Fortunately that night a big rain storm came and we were 
not able to get back in the cornfield for several days. All the 
torn out corn and tracks were obliterated, so my dad never 
knew. I have never told anyone about the bare in the cornfield 
until now and the very important lesson I learned: never leave 
skittish horses untied when you dive into a creek in your birth- 
dav suit. 


Helen E. Rilling 

Today's children will never get to look across the fields 
and see those golden mountains of straw that we enjoyed in 
the early nineteen hundreds. Everyone had them in fields and 
feed lots. They were something we all shared, and the sight of 
them gave us a feeling of belonging to the land where we lived 
on a farm on the eastern edge of Morgan County. 

Wheat was planted in the fall. When it greened in the 
spring we chewed on the new green shoots on our way across 
the fields to school. We'd arrive with green faces and tongues 
much to the amusement of the other children. 

Wheat ripened in late June or early July. Oats were 
planted in the spring, many times while snow was still flying. 
It ripened in June or July just after the wheat. These crops 
were cut with a binder that cut and tied the grain into bundles. 
Four horses pulled the binders, or reapers as they were called. 
The driver sat on a high seat, using a long binder whip to keep 
the horses moving. The bundles were then put into shocks by 
hand. It was a good job for kids to help with. What fun we had 
running ahead to grab a bundle in each hand and stash them 
against the shock already started by the men! The shocks had 
to be just "so," father said. Two bundles were stuck down tight 
in the stubble, then two more to form a center core. Bundles 
were placed around the outside over the cracks. Two or more 
bundles were then set tight on the top — some in other direc- 
tions to form a cap, so the shock would shed rain. 

Late in July the excitement would build around the 
neighborhood. The huge steam threshing engine and long red 
separator would pull into the grain fields giving a toot or two to 
announce it was setting up. There would be the big threshing 
dinner to prepare. My sister Nellie and I hunted jugs and 
wrapped them in burlap bags and cut bright corncobs to make 
stoppers. We would have to haul drinking water to the fields 
for the crew. Our brother, Zack, helped haul the grain from the 
threshing machine to the elevator at Alexander, Illinois. 

The bundles of grain were picked up on hay wagons and 
hauled to the threshing rig, where the grain was separated 
from the straw. The wheat straw was blown from the long 
spouts on the separator into huge stacks in the fields. Wheat 
straw had beards and was used for bedding the livestock. 
Sometimes there was so much straw two big stacks were made 
side by side or at each end of a long field. As the stacks grew in 
height, the spouts were turned from side to side forming sev- 

eral peaks. The oat straw was used for feed and shelter, and 
those stacks were often put in pastures near the farm build- 

What fun we had tumbling down those big straw stacks. 
From the top of our straw mountains we could see the neigh- 
bors' houses for miles around. Sometimes a hay baler would 
use the straw to make bales for easier hauling. They would 
leave a sheer drop. We'd slide down the stack and shoot off the 
edge, landing in the deep softness of several feet of loose straw. 

In the winters we raced across the fields after a snowfall, 
hauling our old wooden-runner sled and carrying shiny grain 
scoops. We'd slide down the stacks at the craziest speeds, 
laughing at each other's daring exploits. When we got cold, 
we'd dig a hole on the sunny side and scrunch back into it, bak- 
ing in the hot sun until toasty warm again for the long trek 
home over the frozen fields. Animals used the stacks for win- 
ter homes. We'd investigate all the mysterious burrows hoping 
to find a sleeping bear. 

In the spring the stacks were burned to make way for 
plowing the fields. Those were exciting times. We always 
begged father to burn the stacks when we were home from 
school. We thought they were the biggest fires in the whole 

In early summer mother planted watermelons and 
cucumbers for pickles in the ashes. She had to be sure father 
plowed around some of the spots where the stacks had been. 
Just the thought of those big juicy watermelons and canta- 
loupes always did the trick, and he left her several nice spots. 
The cucumbers were planted in one spot and the melon in 
another. It was thought they would mix if grown too closely 
together. The ashes were five inches deep and the ground 
underneath loose and crumbly. It took very little cultivation to 
grow a bumper crop. Those oases among father's growing corn 
and hay were places we all enjoyed going. Kids and dogs went 
along. We helped mother dust for insects. What a thrill to dis- 
cover the first big yellow bloom or the first tiny green cucum- 


ber just an inch long. They looked like little bugs. 

Children will never again get to look across the Illinois 
prairie and see those beautiful mounds of golds straw. In win- 
ter they were tall white hills inviting us to climb them. It was 
t he grandest time to be alive. Each spring we could hardly wait 
for the cycle to begin anew. In the end we knew we would be the 
owners of those lofty mounds of straw where laughter rang 
across the fields as we rolled and tumbled down. Straw stacks 
and kids belonged together. 


Dorris Taylor Nash 

Living as a tenant farm hand, earning a dollar per day 
(which fed and clothed two adults, a four-year-old and a two- 
year-old) was hard times in a serious fashion in 1925. My 
father, Irven Fisher, and his brother Wesley were glad to be 
hired hands, each working on neighboring farms in Greene 
County, lUinois. They were blessed with two hard working 
wives. Dona, called "Doughnut" by her friends, was a slim, 
freckled woman, and Aunt Essie was a chunky redhead with 
movie star legs whose laughter could be heard a distance away 
when she was tickled about something. Each wife was a good 
helpmate. Stretching pennies was a way of life for them. I 
remember seeing my mother sitting at an old drop-head trea- 
dle machine at night with a kerosene lamp throwing shadows 
on her sewing. She made all the bread the family ate and 
cooked nourishing pots of food. It seemed that a pot of some- 
thing was always simmering on the back of the wood-fed cook 
stove. Mom made lye soap to use, and when she washed 
clothes all the water had to be heated on the stove, and trans- 
ferred to the wash tub (she used a washboard) and two tubs of 
rinse water. Each piece of laundry was wrung out by hand. I 
saw her fingers raw many times from vigorous rubbing on the 


The homemade squares of lye soap served as a cleansing 
agent for her floors too. and my little brother and I loved the 
day Mom scrubbed floors. After letting the lye soapsuds figur- 
atively eat the dirt off the floor, she melted a chunk of parafin 
and mixed it with a small can of kerosene and applied the 
odorous mixture to the linoleum which was the poor man's 
carpeting in those days. Next she would pull some of Dad's old 
wool socks over our shoes, and Jack and I would exhaust our- 
selves slipping and sliding merrily over the floor to induce a 
shine. A final buffing by Mom produced the desired glass-like 
surface she wanted on the floor. 

Mr. Hardcastle, Dad's boss, kept us supplied with meat 
when he butchered in the winter. Mom had a chicken pen and 
Dad milked a cow kept in a nearby pasture, but we had many 
meatless days unless Dad found time to walk into the nearby 
woods and shoot game for our table. 

I remember one time he brought home a ground hog he 
had shot and expected Mom to cook it. She balked noisily and 
strongly. He hated to see it go to waste, but she dug in her heels 
and wouldn't even let him bring it into the house. Finally, in 
disgust, he threw it into the hog pen. She was a good teammate 
for dad, but the ground hog as food was going too far in her 

For recreation she and Aunt Essie would "neighbor" 
back and forth in good weather. It was an ordinary happening 
to see Mom trudging down the road pulling a coaster wagon 
with two small youngsters chattering away on their way to go 
see Aunt Essie and cousins Loretta and Rosemary. Then in a 
few days Aunt Essie could be seen returning our call, pulling 
her daughters toward our house. 

One day they were talking about Christmas and wonder- 
ing where they were going to get cash to provide gifts for their 
families. Both mothers knew the children would expect to 
hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve and find them full 
on Christmas day. Finally an idea was born. Skunks! That was 

the answer! Aunt Essie's dogs, named Sport and Whiskers, 
had liilled a skunk a few weeks before and Uncle Wesley had 
skinned it and got a two dollar bounty fee for it at the court- 
house at Carrollton, the county seat. The two young mothers 
had seen a lot of skunk holes in a high creek bank one day 
- when they had been in the woods picking up walnuts with their 
children, so they knew they didn't have to go far to find 
skunks. Discussing the idea with their husbands and getting 
sage advice on how to become a successful skunk hunter, they 
quickly made plans for their first skunk hunting expedition. 
For several afternoons in early November the two ener- 
getic mothers, pulling their offspring in the coaster wagons, 
carrying a bucket with a rope inside, and the dogs trotting 
friskily alongside, would travel to the creek to get skunks. We 
children were told to gather sticks and small pieces of wood 
which our mothers used to stick in all visible holes except the 
main one, which could be identified because it was bigger. The 
dogs would stay close by, barking and jumping as if they knew 
they were going to be an important part of the event. After all 
the holes were plugged with wood, calling the dogs to stay close 
to the hole. Mom and my aunt would begin to draw a bucket of 
water at a time using the rope to reach the creek water with the 
bucket. Bucket by bucket they poured water into the remain- 
ing open hole in the creek bank. Soon groggy, soggy and bewil- 
dered skunks would crawl out of the hole. As they emerged 
Sport and Whiskers would each grab a skunk, and the fight 
was on. The dogs would kill them quickly. They had to because 
the skunks always retaliated in their own distinctive fashion. 
We youngsters watching from a safe distance would cheer as 
our mothers called out the score to us. 

When the skunks sprayed their scent on the dogs, the 
poor dogs would get so sick. They would rub their faces in the 
leaves and dirt and roll around being awfully sick. Yet each day 
they were ready to go tackle another skunk. After the dogs 
recovered a bit, the skunks would be left in a sack tied to a tree 

limb and we would go home. We usually had three or four 
skunks in the sack each day. After dark, when farm chores 
were done. Dad and Uncle Wes would go to the creek by lan- 
tern light, drag the gunny sack to Uncle Wes's house, skin and 
stretch the hides to dry. 

We never ran out of skunks, but eventually the Novem- 
ber weather became too cold for us little ones to make the trek 
to the creek and be outside for long. In mid-December our 
fathers put the dried pelts in Dad's Model T and turned them 
in at the courthouse at CarroUton to collect the bounty fee. 

Twenty four stiff and stinky skunk hides created a finan- 
cial bonanza of forty-eight dollars! Over a month and a half of 
pay compared to Dad's earnings as a farm hand. Twenty-four 
dollars as our share gave us an unforgettable Christmas! Our 
stockings were bulging on Christmas morning with candy, 
nuts, and the traditional orange plumping out the toe. Dad got 
a couple of warm flannel shirts and Mom had dress goods and 
warm cotton stockings under the fresh-cut pine tree. My 
brother was delighted with a shiny red coaster wagon and I 
recall that I got a toy piano that I used as a stool when I looked 
at a book. 

Looking back many years later I realize those hard times 
in that small tenant house were a lesson showing that hard 
work and common sense and family love are a means to over- 
come hardship and everyday problems. My parents worked 
together as a team creating a warm solid home environment 
that a four-year-old remembers sixty years later. 

Most people driving on the highway and seeing a dead 
skunk will wrinkle their noses at the pungent odor. For me, 
well, it serves as a reminder of the time when life was hard but 
my parents gave me a beautiful memory that I have shared 
with my children and grandchildren. Thanks to a pair of 
enterprising ladies and a few skunks, a family had a happy 

JV Old-time l^olitics 



No aspect of Illinois history has received more attention 
than politics. That is, of course, not surprising since Lincoln 
was the greatest political leader of his century, and all the 
issues and campaigns of his time, as well as his associates and 
opponents, have been discussed again and again. 

But Lincoln was the product of a state that already had a 
lively political tradition that stretched back to the territorial 
era. A poem called "Candidates," which appeared in the Illi- 
nois Intelligencer at Kaskaskia on July I. 1818, demonstrates 
that campaigning for office hasn't changed much over the 

. . . From year to year, no friendly steps 
Approach my cottage, save near election days. 
When throngs of busy, bustling candidates 
Cheer me with their conversation, soft and sweet. 
I listen with patience to their charming tales. 
My health and crops appear their utmost care, 
Fraternal squeezes from their hands I get — 
As though they loved me from their very souls — 
Then: "Will you vote for me, my dearest friend? 
Your laws I'll alter, and lop taxes off; 
'Tis for the public weal I stand the test. 
And leave my home, sorely against my will; 
But knowing that the people's good requires 
An old substantial hand, I quit my farm 
For patriotism's sake, and public good." 
Then fresh embraces close the friendly scene. 
With protestations firm, of how they love. 
But what most rarely does my good wife praise. 
Is that the snot-nosed baby gets a buss! . . . 

Canvassing from house to house, making promises, and 
kissing babies were part of the routine even before Lincoln 
came to Illinois. Personalities played a big part in political 

campaigns, and the man who could appeal to the voters as a 
regular fellow, no better than anyone else socially but devoted 
to the public good, was most likely to prevail. Lincoln himself 
made good political use of his humble background and 
storytelling ability to build a following among the plain folks 
of small-town and rural Illinois, even as his intellectual ability 
impressed the more sophisticated. 

He was also a talented speaker at a time when political 
rallies played an important role in Illinois politics. Rallies 
have become less common and less important in the twentieth 
century, with advances in communication, but in this section 
of Tales from Two Rivers IV Edward Young and Roy B. 
Poppleton recall the days when they were big events. 

Old-time politics in Illinois was also characterized by the 
citizen-legislator, the man who worked at some occupation 
outside of politics and the law and brought his experience as a 
farmer or businessman into the legislature. One of the last of 
that dwindling group was Clarence E. Neff, a farmer from 
Henderson County who served in the Illinois House of Repre- 
sentatives for many years, and who provides a memoir of 
political change in our time. 

The way that elections are conducted has also changed. 
Two views of that process from the inside are presented by 
Josephine K. Oblinger and Delbert Lutz. The former recounts 
a single experience in the infamous world of Chicago politics, 
and the latter summarizes years of work in rural Hancock 

We are reminded of the many ways in which politics can 
be a personal matter by all of the memoirs in this section, but 
especially perhaps by Keith L. Wilkey's nostalgic "Buttons 
and Memories— from Garfield to Reagan" and Nelle 
Shadwell's serio-comic "Family Feud." It is, of course, the very 
capacity of politics to involve us in the issues, developments, 
and personalities of our day that makes that aspect of our 
national life so continually fascinating. 

John E. Hallwas 



Edward Young* 

It was at the turn ofthe century, as far as I can remember, 
that this story took place. I was about nine or ten years old 
-when my folks took me and my two younger sisters to our first 
political rally. Of course, I should add this was a Republican 
rally day. This was during the time when the Republicans were 
called Gold Standardmen and the democrats were Free 

It was a sunny weekday morning when my stepmother 
packed us a delicious picnic lunch of fried chicken, fruit, 
homemade bread and butter, and pie. Then we started out for 
the rally. Dad, my stepmother, Gracie, Nellie and myself rode 
in a black surrey with the bright colored fringe on the top. Our 
team of horses, bay mares named Cricket and Kate, pulled our 
buggy to the small community of Astoria. It took us about an 
hour and a half to reach our destination, for we lived in an area 
which was called Flatwoods, just southwest of Vermont. I 
imagine it is a distance of about fifteen miles from Astoria. 

William McKinley was our president at this time, and he 
must have been running for a second term in office. 

The streets of Astoria were filled with excited people 
cheering and shouting. The town was all decorated with red, 
white and blue bunting, and flags were hanging everywhere. 
The politicians, wearing straw hats with red, white, and blue 
bands around them, were walking around the crowds advertis- 
ing for their candidate and wearing political buttons pinned 
all over them. There were other people passing out lots of liter- 
ature and free political memorabilia, such as slogan and pic- 
ture buttons and posters. Several bands were placed through- 
out the town playing patriotic songs such as "The Star 
Spangled Banner," "America," and of course other cheery loud 

The rally lasted all day, with politicians from all over get- 
ting up on a wooden platform in the middle ofthe streets of the 
town. They each spoke on behalf of the Republican party's 
candidate. The crowds of people were loud and full of cheers 
the whole day. I remember I was right in the middle of all the 
commotion, wearing two buttons on my coat. One ofthe but- 
tons had a picture of President McKinley on it, and the other 
one had a picture of our Vice President, Theodore 

It was such an exciting experience for a young boy like 
me. Everyone seemed to be happy and full of enthusiasm until 
some shocking news reached us. It was while we were still at 
the rally when one of the platform speakers announced the 
tragic news to everyone: President William McKinley had 
been shot and killed that day. He announced that Vice Presi- 
dent Theodore Roosevelt would have to finish McKinley's 
term as President ofthe United States. 

I can remember how fast that happy day turned into a 
sad one. The people were quiet as they stood around and 
talked of the tragedy that had struck our country that day. 
People gradually began to load up their families and head for 
their homes. 

It was a memorable occasion for me, but it was unfortu- 
nately marked by the death of a great president. 


Roy B. Poppleton 

The story I'm about to tell has to do with politics, politi- 
cians, elections and ramifications ofthe old days. At that time 
there were few telephones, no automobiles, dusk-to-midnight 
electric service, horses and buggies, dirt streets, wood side- 
walks, and no radios or electrical conveniences. 

I especially recall the political rally about the year 1908 
at Genesee. It was a rally complete with all the trimmings. 


including the large street crowds, the torchlight parade, the 
band and the band concert. The rally started in the late after- 
noon on a fairly decent November day. It was in the days of 
"local option," and Geneseo was wet while Cambridge (the 
county seat) was dry. There was the Geneseo House, and they 
had a bar in the basement with an outside stairway and it was 
handy. More later about it. 

I was about fifteen years old and was a member of the 
Cambridge Light Guard Band. We were set up on a platform 
on the corner across from the hotel. We played several num- 
bers, and later in the evening it was time for the torchlight 
parade. Long sticks were used, to which had been attached a 
bottle of kerosene with a wick. These were lighted, and being 
quite a number of them, they made a very high class parade. 
There were also some fireworks of the lesser varieties. 

Roy Jennings was a man of huge proportions. He 
weighed over 350 pounds and was always around when there 
were activities of any sort, especially if it had to do with 
Republican politics. At this particular time he was on the 
street mingling with the crowd. His long swaggering overcoat 
had the pockets filled with roman candles. As the coat tails 
floated in the breeze, some guy snuck up and lit the candles, 
and they started shooting hither and yon. Miraculously, no 
damage was done, but the excitement was intense. 

Referring to the Geneseo House, I might say it was very 
handy to our concert platform, and the saloon in the basement 
made it just dandy because our band members were always 
thirsty. After the street demonstrations, the torchlight 
parade, and the other activities had died down, it was time for 
our band to render a few numbers. The trouble was, only a few 
members were available to play. Couriers were dispatched to 
the basement to bring the boys back, but some got lost and 
never did get back, so the concert had to go on with an abbrevi- 
ated number of men still able to toot. 

Those rallies always had various forms of noise makers, 
badges, souvenirs, etc. My grandfather had a metal cane with 

a horn for a handle, and he used it at the rallies. 

On the night of a presidential election our courthouse 
was headquarters for all interested parties. There were plenty 
of chairs and a long table in this room. There were also boxes 
of cigars, lots of smoke, and foot-high spittoons. The spit- 
toons had leaded bases so they might rock a little but would 
not spill over. I liked the excitement too and would be among 
the men seated about the room. Around ten o'clock at night 
some early telegrams would begin coming in. Our station 
agent would remain at the depot well in to the morning hours 
to receive these messages. I was delegated to do the leg work 
and would run from the court house to the depot and return 
with a handful of telegrams. I would do this till after 
midnight — that's as long as my mother would let me stay out. 

In later years when I lived in Kewanee election returns 
would come to the Kewanee Star Courier, and big sheets of 
paper would be hung on a wire strung across the window set- 
ting forth the returns from time to time. There were always 
crowds assembled outside to watch. But no other election was 
as memorable for me as the one in 1908, when I was a boy in 


Billie Hartzell Thompson 

During the presidential campaign of 1892, a local battle 
was going on between Springfield and the grape growers of 
Nauvoo over what they considered unfair taxation of their 
products. William Hartzell, campaigning for States Attorney 
of Hancock County and sympathetic toward the growers, had 
sought their support. He was 23 years old at his introduction 
in Nauvoo, and one citizen voiced the sentiment of all: "My 
God! Is this the kid we've been working for?" 

The young man won that election, and in seeking a sec- 


ond term, his campaign poster read, "His record from 1892- 
1896. Of all indictments returned by grand jury during that 
period charging offenses which were punishable by imprison- 
ment in the penitentiary, ninety percent convicted. He paid 
County Superintendent of Schools Nineteen Hundred and 
Fifty-Five Dollars, over and above his salary." 

Years later while I drove that same William Hartzell, 
who was my father, and my mother about Nauvoo, he warned 
me of the road we were on. Not only was it leading into the 
Mississippi, but we were in "bootleg country." Mother said, 
"We can't be. They have flowers in their yards!" At the 
moment of our turning into a driveway, we were hailed by a 
gentleman from behind his flower garden. "Oh! Hi, Hartzell! 
What can I do for you?" I don't remember how we made our 
departure, but the incident was typical of Mot her's great trust 
in flower growers and Father's diplomatic exit when it was his 
choice to back away. 

Though my father was a strict prohibitionist ("Liquor 
has no defense," as Lincoln said), he remained a friend and 
counselor to his Nauvoo client-electorate. At his death the 
Editor of the Nauvoo Independent wrote— "We have known 
'Billy Hartzell' for two score years and never found him want- 

Father had a way of identifying with voters. On the cam- 
paign trail in Durham Township, he said, "They claim the far- 
ther you go up on Crooked Crick, the tougher they get. I was 
born at its headwaters." And at a rally in La Harpe, he 
bragged, "I was the smartest, the handsomest, the most ambi- 
tious (pause) — I was the only one in my graduating class." His 
audience, anticipating his punch line, caught its timing and 
laughed knowingly. 

Of political relics and stories in our family, three concern 
William Jennings Bryan. Pants pockets full of jingling silver 
was evidence of Father's admiration for the man's political 
views, the "free silver" position. A small nondescript drum has 
survived moves and years since a brother carried it in a parade 

honoring Bryan. The Blandinsville Picnic, a mecca for family 
reunions and political opportunities, was for us an opportu- 
nity to visit in our Uncle John Huston's home. During a presi- 
dential campaign, the Great Commoner was also a guest of the 
Hustons. At dinner Aunt Ally was apologetic for the gravy. 
"No need for apology, Mrs. Huston," said Mr. Bryan, "It's just 
good Baptist gravy." The expression was never explained to 
us. Its graceful humor sufficed for the occasion, and we chil- 
dren guessed the gravy was thin enough for baptism. 

Although he might have cited biblical reference to it, 
political chicanery seemed never to have been credited to 
William Jennings Bryan. Someone once asked Judge Charles 
Scofield, another well-known lawyer/preacher, how he could 
reconcile the two professions. Well, he had never said any- 
thing from the pulpit of which he was ashamed. Father was 
never guilt ridden in this area either. But one wonders, then 
and now, at the skullduggery in politics. How seemingly hon- 
orable men can play the dirty role when their provincial bias is 
at stake. 

It has been fifty years since I became related to the 
Ewings of Elvaston. I was finally bold enough to ask John 
Leonard Ewing if he knew why our fathers were such enemies. 
John said he certainly could tell me. "My father was running 
for Supervisor when your father brought up this no-good, 
so-and-so from Basco to run against him. And he beat 
Father!" If we didn't laugh uproarously, we smiled. Another 
time I recall Father and his cronies from west Carthage chose 
to run a neighbor, John L. Paris, for Mayor against a member 
of one of the most respected names in the Carthage Democ- 
racy, A. Davidson. I guess John made as good a Mayor as 
many. Earlier, during World War I, Father had served as 

Among his political peers were John Scott and Ed 
Combs, more noted enemies within the party. Going to vote in 
an election where each was seeking a seat on the school board, 
they had encountered each other on the west side of the 

square. Combs said to Scott (or was it theotiier way around?) 
"I don't need your vote in this election!" The reply, "If you 
don't want my vote, get off the ticket!" 

During the 1930s, there was a colorful figure in Illinois 
politics. Senator James Hamilton Lewis. Perfect in sartorial 
splendor, he had a cane swinging rhythmically with each step. 
His glasses were the pinch-on type; his hair and well-trimmed 
beard, once a becoming auburn, had faded to an unfortunate 
pink. Thus in his later years, he had the demeaning title, 
"Pink Whiskers." He had been the intended speaker at a Dem- 
ocratic rally in Carthage but, suffering from an ulcerated 
tooth, he had had to retire to his hotel room and Father did 
some political-ad-libbing for him — on a ready topic, the farm 
scene and farmers' plight under the Hoover regime. A young- 
ster joining the gathering late was heard to say, "Senator Pink 
Whiskers must have shaved. He looks a lot like Mr. 

Edward Martin, a law partner, believed that his congres- 
sional defeat "was the luckiest thing that ever happened to Mr. 
Hartzell. He would have been lost in Washington." Father had 
been swept under the avalanche of votes along with the other 
Democrats in that disastrous campaign of Al Smith for Presi- 
dent. Locally, he had made his political bed with a strange 
bedfellow — one Warren Orr, who subsequently became a 
judge on the State Supreme Court. As usual, I knew nothing 
about the cause but I did know of the enmity between the 
Judge and Father indirectly. On an occasion, we were walking 
to town when we met Mr. Wallace, Mr. Orr's father-in-law. 
Father asked, "How do you do, Mr. Wallace?" Quite amiably I 
had thought, but the older man passed by silently. In not a sub- 
dued voice, Father said, "I always speak to a dog for fear they'll 
bite." It was one of the two times I had observed my father's 
unbridled distaste for the actions of his fellow man. 

Perhaps, as Mr. Martin said, Father would have been lost 
in Washington; however, recalling a trial of some consequence 
in Rock Island, I would be his defender. His opposing lawyer, 

from Chicago, spoke of "The Country Lawyer" — that inten- 
tional remark of derision was all the attorney from Carthage 
needed. The city barrister retreated in a disastrous exchange 
of legal maneuvering. Father could handle himself very well. 
He knew his capability. Once Father was visiting us in 
Springfield and in a homesick moment I had confided in him, 
"I wish I could run down Monroe Street shouting who I am and 
from where I came!" He smiled and counseled, "You know it. 
That's all that is necessary." 

My father's quiet confidence motivated him to a life of 
achievement as a lawyer and politician. 


Nelle Shad well 

As I grow older, I realize that I was very fortunate to 
spend the first twenty years of my life in Funkhouser, a small 
village about 130 miles south of Springfield, Illinois. There are 
many stories yet to tell about Funkhouser. We had our com- 
edy, mystery, music, barn dances, school and church socials, 
and even a murder. Some of our humorous experiences, how- 
ever, resulted from our politics and politicians. 

As far back as I can remember, my father was one of the 
strongest Democrats you could find. Frank Stewart was 
known for miles around, mostly because he drove a 1914 
Model T Ford with straight fenders, a brass radiator and a 
funny horn that went, "Khuga!" (He named the car "Old Liz" 
and drove it until he died in 1949.) 

On election day, I would sit in my old tire swing and 
watch him drive back and forth down the old National Trail 
(now Route 40) to the small, white voting precinct building, 
which sat back on a dirt road among the trees. All day long he 
would drive by with Old Liz full of Democrats. But there was a 


My mother, Amanda Stewart, was as strong a Republi- 
can as Dad was a Democrat. Since drivers were paid to "haul" 
voters, there was some objection to my mother riding to the 
polls with him to vote Republican. Mom answered that politi- 
cal ply with the argument that since Frank Stewart belonged 
to her, so did Old Liz. 

This conflict was just part of the situation that had the 
village in an uproar. Part of the fun was watching — or listening 
to — the rows between Frank and "Mandy." 

For example. Dad tied a large "Democrat" banner across 
the entire back of the car. Mom countered with a small, red 
elephant on the small, oval glass window in the back. Later, 
she entered the garage to find her little elephant scraped off. 
She marched into the house and got a large butcher knife. No, 
she didn't use it on Dad, but he wouldn't have been half so 
angry as he was with what she did. She cut his banner in long 
slits, then slashed the four ropes holding it to the car and left it 
lying on the garage floor. My young ears were too tender for 
what I heard when my father discovered his banner. Even the 
men spending their usual afternoon on the "gossip" bench in 
front of the Perring grocery store, just west of our property, 
heard the battle. 

Needless to say, the community was greatly amused by 
the antics of my mother and father around election time. The 
grocer, Harry Perring, offered me candy bars if I would sneak 
around and put Republican stickers on Old Liz. Like all chil- 
dren, I loved candy, but I wasn't dumb enough to do that. 

Now, Mom knew how to drive, but Dad wouldn't let her 
"haul" Republicans. He should have remembered the circum- 
stances under which she learned to drive. He would have been 
more careful. 

Dad worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad and was gone 
all day. Mom would go out after he left for work, push Old Liz 
out of the garage, crank her up and practice driving, backing, 
turning. She could drive all around the big lot and the curved 
driveway. One day a neighbor, Oma Waugh, hurried over to our 

house. She needed to go to nearby Effingham for some medi- 
cine for one of her children. Although Mom had never driven 
on the highway, or "hard road," as they called it, she said she 
would try. With Oma's daughter, Leone, Oma, and me loaded 
into Old Liz, away we went. Leone and I giggled all the way, 
bouncing along in the back seat. Mom did beautifully until she 
tried to park at the curb in front of Paul Eiche's drug store. 
She ran over the curb and up onto the sidewalk. 

When she got home, she told Dad what she had done. He 
didn't say a word. The next day. Mom and Oma decided to 
pack a picnic lunch and drive down to the Wabash River to go 
fishing. They herded all the children out to the garage, but 
there, on the door, was a big, shiny padlock. Mom didn't say a 
word. She just went back to the house, got some tools, came 
back and took the hinges off the door. She opened it back the 
other way and we went fishing. 

With this background, we all knew Dad's restriction on 
Old Liz was a mistake. Sure enough. Mom announced that if 
she couldn't use Old Liz to haul Republicans, she would just 
get a job and buy a car of her own. She said she would show 
him. She would haul two Republicans to his one Democrat. 
Dad laughed and told his friends what she had said. 

I think my mother's strong Methodist background must 
have paid off, since two factories came to Effingham soon 
after her vow. A friend took her to apply at a glove factory and 
the "Vulcan Last" factory. Mom got calls from both factories 
on the same day. She chose the Vulcan, where she was to spend 
seventeen years. The first purchase she made, much to Dad's 
dismay, was a brand new Ford. 

From then on, I sat on the porch swing and watched both 
of them drive by, hauling voters. I vowed I would never be a 
Democrat or a Republican. 

But now for the finale. When Franklin D. Roosevelt ran 
for president. Dad got angry and switched to the Republican 
Party. Mom, however, decided that since Theodore Roosevelt 
was a good president, Franklin Roosevelt probably would be 


good, too. so she switched to the Democratic Party. 

Ahhough the old country voting houses are just a mem- 
ory now, I hke to study the pohtics of the old times. With 
Frank and Mandy Stewart for parents, how could it be other- 


Vera Niemann 

A bell rang and "Hear Ye, Hear Ye the Polls are now- 
open" was called out and solemnly repeated three times by 
Ernest Shively, our grocery store owner and a judge of elec- 
tion. He had stepped outside to give this message to a bitterly 
cold, deserted world at 6 a.m. 

Other judges, already seated at the long dining room 
table, were: Frank Adams, an alert man with piercing blue 
eyes; Eugene Schirmer, a polished gentleman of the old school 
and an accomplished musician; Otto Hesse, our close neigh- 
bor, scholarly, quiet, quick, always ready to help, and Papa, 
Joseph Klein, who always aspired to things political but had to 
earn a living for us as an accountant at a railroad office. 

Voting booths, installed the previous evening, were 
heavy, gray-painted metal, with a heavy canvas curtain across 
the upper front. Red and white placards on the windows of the 
front porch proclaimed this the polling place, always showing 
the date. 

This was a day of great excitement to us. It seemed so 
right that everyone should come to our house through those 
many years for elections. In this sparsely settled community, 
many people walked, more came by horse and buggy, and a few 
chugged up to the cinder sidewalk in those new-fangled contri- 
vances: auto-mobiles. Mama's hot coffee on the range wel- 
comed all. 

Voting day was family day for many people and we 
enjoyed seeing them, including the babies. Memory does not 
cover whether women voted then, or not. the sight of men's 
shoes under the curtains is still clear. 

We had strict instructions not to enter the voting room. 
The rules were tempered with "you may come in if we need 
you." I managed to be always around the corner to fetch a glass 
of water, sharpen pencils, empty big bowls of cigar ashes, etc. 
This was accomplished with aplomb and dignity. With precise, 
mincing steps, looking neither right nor left, I did the tasks 
with what I considered queenly grace. After all, I was privi- 
leged to enter. Did the workers exchange amused glances over 
the intense, calico-clad child with long black cotton stockings 
and long brown braids? 

One day, a pompous, elegantly attired man took his 
stance near the front porch. He approached each arriving 
voter with all the charm of a medicine man. His big, gold- 
toothed smile and pat on the back accompanied his handing 
them printed sheets with his name and what appeared to be 
his business card. I could not understand his words from the 
election room. "What do you think he's up to?" was heard as 
the judges peeked around the lace curtain. 

Papa, ever the one to decide, stated "He's electioneering 
and it's against the law." I was summoned, and told to ride over 
to the constable's (his name fails me) and ask him to come 

My feelings were ambivalent as I got out my treasured, 
gleaming Ranger bike. This man was handsome and so nice, 
but they were going to arrest him. However, duty called and 
the courier for government pumped her way over two hills. 
The constable, a jolly man, put on his badge and came. After 
he entered the house for some whispered talk, he strode over 
to the man. My heart beat wildly as I listened with no shame. 

With great affection they greeted each other, shaking 
hands, and rocking back and forth on their heels. Finally the 
constable leaned forward with a smile, and said, "Charlie, you 


ain't allowed to electioneer on the premises. It's against the 
law." Charlie stuffed his papers into his pockets, and thanked 
the constable. He smiled too, but all his sartorial elegance 
seemed to crumple. I felt sorry for him, and had to reassure 
myself that, at least, they did not arrest him. 

After the full day of voters going in and out, the polls 
were closed by the ringing bell and Mr. Shiveley's triple procla- 
mation to the world at 6 p.m. Then began the rustling and 
shuffling of papers, and grinding of the pencil sharpener. Talk 
settled down and we knew the "count" had started. 

Why, though, did they mention my little friend "Tillie" 
so much. They repeated her name many, many times. Later 
Papa was confronted with the question. 

"Tillie?" His was all question marks. "We never talk 
about Tillie." 

"Yes, you do; you all say 'One-two-three-four-Tillie' lots 
of times." It was then a new golden nugget of information was 
given me. The meaning and use of the word "tally" in counting. 

This voting day was completed. Two judges delivered bal- 
lots to the Belleville Court House. Voting booths were 
removed with great grinds and scrapes. Winners were 

The smell of constant cigar smoke filled the rooms for 
many days. Mama tried her best by pushing the hand-sweeper 
furiously, and washing woodwork, opening windows and hang- 
ing draperies outside. The odor did eventually leave, but some- 
times we thought it was into the very walls. 

Evervthing settled down until the next glamorous day of 
booths, voters, records, counting — minus my friend Tillie. 


Keith L. Wilkey 

"Our husbands link to Lincoln, but our fathers were for 

Political slogans like the above could have been chanted 
by Grandma Lawless and her sisters-in-law in 1860 when their 
menfolk were electioneering for Abe Lincoln, the Illinois rail- 
splitter candidate. 

In 1834 when Great -Grandpa Lawless brought his family 
from Kentucky to central Adams County, Henry Clay was the 
pride of Kentucky. 

In 1850 when Lawless was elected Justice of the Peace in 
Dover Township, he was no the Whig ticket. And after Uncle 
Tom Lawless spent five months as a prisoner in Andersonville 
Prison during the Civil War, the family ties to the (Whig) 
Republican Party became even stronger. 

I have a collection of Republican presidential campaign 
buttons stretching across a period of 104 years; from James A. 
Garfield in 1880 to Ronald Reagan in 1984. 

All but two of these buttons have a personal connection 
or a personal recollection. Only my Garfield and Benjamin 
Harrison buttons were bought from collectors and have no 
personal meaning. 

My James G. Blaine button of 1884 has two personal ties. 
In 1975 an aged woman in Camp Point sent word for me to stop 
and see her. "I heard you have a good collection of Republican 
campaign buttons," she said. 

She then handed me an emblem, made of light metal, 
with the word, in script, "BLAINE." An arrow pierced through 
the letters. 

"My husband, Joe, wore this with pride during the Blaine 
campaign of 1884. I have kept it all these years. I want you to 
have it," she said. 

Another incident relating to that campaign concerns a 


story I have heard my mother tell. In the summer of 1884 she 
was five years old and her brother was four. About two weeks 
before the election there was a funeral in the community. In 
those days a funeral procession moved at a slow pace. No one 
wanted to be accused of "hurrying them off to the grave- 

As the black, square-bodied hearse, with its black adorn- 
ments, pulled by a team of coal black horses with black tassels 
attached to their heads, moved slowly down the dusty road in 
the autumn sunshine, mother and Uncle Hugh, swinging on 
the front yard gate, shouted at the top of their childish little 
voices, "Hooray for Blaine and Logan! Hooray for Blaine and 

Their parents, riding by in one of the slow moving bug- 
gies, were mortified beyond words. 

Until 1896 political campaign buttons were not always 
buttons, but a non-descript assortment of emblems, stick- 
pins and what have you. 

The smooth celluloid button first appeared during the 
McKinley-Bryan contest of 1896. When I was about 18 years 
old my mother gave me one of those buttons in mint condition. 

"Pa wore this in 1896," she said. "He and my brother, 
Lloyd, attended a big McKinley rally held in Quincy's Wash- 
ington Park. After the speaking they got to shake hands with 
McKinley and it was at that time that he received the button." 

My Theodore Roosevelt button was purchased by me for 
ten cents in 1949. That button also ties in with a family inci- 

I have a faded penny postcard addressed, "Oscar 
Roosevelt Wilkey." It was postmarked August 2, 1912, the day 
I was born. 

My LJncle Oscar, like all my maternal relatives, was a 
staunch Republican, and he thought it would be nice to have 
his name connected with the popular Teddy Roosevelt to be 
carried by his new little nephew. But my father, who was a 
Democrat, had some very different ideas. 

The first cam]5aign of which I have any personal recollec- 
tion, dim though it is, was the Justice Charles Evans Hughes- 
President Woodrow Wilson contest of 1916. Though I was 
only four, I can recall hearing around the house, "Hughes" and 
"he kept us out of war." I even recall my father having the last 
laugh when after the Republicans thought Hughes had won, 
the late votes came in from California and gave Wilson the 
state and the election. 

I was eight years old at the time of the 1920 electi(jn. I 
recall hearing my uncles having a lot to say about Illinois Gov- 
ernor Frank O. Lowden. But as it happened, a dark horse, Sen- 
ator Warren G. Harding, was the presidential candidate. 
Being loyal party men, they supported the Ohio Senator. 

On my birthday that year Grandpa Lawless was at our 
house. As he took a big chew of Yankee Girl scrap tobacco, he 
said, "Keith, come over here and I will give you a birthday pres- 

As I stood before him he pinned a button on the front of 
my homemade blue shirt which read, "Harding and 

I heard little enthusiasm for the Cox-Roosevelt ticket 
put forth by the Democrats that year. It was a big Republican 
victory all down the line. 

Coolidge and Dawes were easily nominated by the 
Republicans in 1924, but the Democrats had a donnybrook. 
Governor Alfred E. Smith and Treasury Secretary William G. 
McAdoo were hopelessly deadlocked. I recall hearing over our 
small Crossley radio that hot summer, the voice of the conven- 
tion clerk intone, "Al. . . .abamaa. ., 12 votes." Time after time 
came back the answer, "Alabama casts 12 votes for Oscar W. 

Finally, on the 104th ballot, compromise candidate Gov- 
ernor John W. Davis, of West Virginia, was chosen. I recall 
how all of us felt relieved that it was over. 

During that carefree summer of 1924, my sister and I 
would chant, "Coolidge and Dawes for the nation's cause." At 


other times it was "Keep Cool with CooUdge." But when us 
kids got into a name-calUng verhal battle, it was, "Democrats 
eat dead rats!" versus "Republicans lick tin cans!" 

In state politics in 1924 Illinois Governor Len Small was 
heralded as the "Illinois Good Roads Governor." Like Presi- 
dent Coolidge, he won easily. 

On March 4, 1925, when President Coolidge was inaugu- 
rated, our school teacher. Miss Ethel Lawless, made arrange- 
ments for the seventh and eighth grades to go to the home of 
Wilbur McNeall and hear the inaugural address over his 
Atwater-Kent radio. 

I still recall the thrill I got as I heard the actual voice of 
the President of the United States, as he began, in his north- 
eastern twangy drawl, 

"My countrymen. . . ." 

In 1928 1 did some actual campaign work for the Republi- 
can team of Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis. "Two cars in 
every garage and a chicken in every pot," was the most often 
used slogan. Mr. Hoover had noted that "Prohibition is a noble 
experiment." Democratic nominee Al Smith was a "wet." 
Never having known anything but Prohibition, I couldn't con- 
ceive of "open saloons." 

On election night, as we listened to the returns at Frost's 
Restaurant, old Louis Frost, Postmaster and a veteran of the 
McKinley-Bryan torchlight parades, said triumphantly, "Yes, 
and Hoover will be reelected in 1932." How wrong could any- 
one be? 

Incidentally all the rest of my campaign buttons were 
collected by me, usually at Republican campaign headquar- 

In 1936 I shook hands with the only presidential chal- 
lenger I ever have met. At a whistle stop in Hancock county I 
shook hands with Alfred M. Landon. When I got home I told 
mother I had shaken hands with the next president. Like Mr. 
Frost in 1928, how wrong could one be? 

No, I have no personal recollections of the granddaddy of 

all flamboyant and boisterous political campaigns, the 
McKinley-Bryan contest of 1896. 

I did not hear the blaring trumpets and the booming 
drum of the Camp Point Roller Mills Band as they marched 
down Hampshire Street in Quincy. I didn't see Colonel 
William Hanna, swashbuckling legendary leader of the old 
"Blind Half-Hundred," as the 50th Regiment lUinois Volun- 
teer Infantry, was known. Astride his sorrel gelding, with his 
head held high, he proudly carried the Stars and Stripes. 

Behind the band came the blue-clad veterans; then the 
marchers, with their kerosene filled flambeau torches, whose 
flame leaped higher into the night air as the marcher periodi- 
cally blew into the mouthpiece. 

But many times I have heard tales told by older men in 
the community who had participated in those action-packed 
affairs. I remember when Mr. Frost would wave his arms and 
raise his voice as he told his tales. And his adversary, old Dick 
Morris, a "hot Democrat" and Bryan supporter, related his 

The political parades I recall were low key affairs and 
more local oriented than state or national. Campaigning was 
mostly attending the numerous fried chicken suppers and pic- 
nics sponsored by the churches. All the local candidates would 
be there, eating fried chicken, smiling, shaking hands and 
handing out cards and books of paper matches. I recall no 
bumper stickers. 

Those raucous and noisy campaigns of old now live only 
in the minds of the fading old-timers. The automobile, the tel- 
ephone, the hard roads, and especially the radio have changed 
forever those unique and picturesque times. Though I didn't 
actually experience them, I am glad I could talk with those 
who did. 



Joseph ine K. Oblinger 

As freshmen at Chicago-Kent College of Law. where only 
seven or eight students were women, we were known by our 
last name and the initial of our given name. Hence. I was 
"Harrington, J." 

In early September, 1938, the Cook County States Attor- 
ney, Thomas Courtney, contacted the local law schools to 
recruit watchers for the upcoming general election. I volun- 
teered, as did most of my classmates. 

We had several sessions at the Cook County Building 
under Judge Jarecki on what to watch for and on the proce- 
dures to be used to report any untoward incidents to the States 
Attorney's office. At the last session we were given our assign- 
ments. To my surprise I found "Harrington, J." listed for a 
precinct in the First Ward, on 22nd and Michigan Avenue, the 
river ward. The ward had been made famous by those notori- 
ous politicians "Hinky Dink" Kenna and "Bathhouse John" 
Coughlin. This was the ward where votes were bought openly, 
where many of the registered voters "lived" in vacant lots or 
inhabited nearby cemeteries. This was the ward where loan 
sharking, prostitution, the numbers racket, and paid-for 
elected officials flourished openly. Did they really want a 
young lady from the Beverly Hills suburb to go in there? 

No matter. I reviewed my instructions on Monday eve- 
ning, set the alarm clock for 4:30 a.m., and went to bed with 
visions of my single-handedly reforming the crooked elections 
in Chicago. 

I arrived at the precinct polling place on time, 5:55 a.m., 
to be greeted by a ward "heeler" who demanded to know what 
the "little lady" wanted so early in the morning. When I 
replied I was there to monitor the election, he burst into a loud 
guffaw and said that was the first time he'd ever heard that 
description of the "little lady's job." 

Finally, a policeman came to my rescue and opened the 

door into the jjolling place. What a sight — the proverbial 
smoke-filled room with bottles frequently making the rounds. 
Who could help me identify the judges! I decided they were the 
five with their coats off. I presented the least red-faced one of 
the five with my credentials. He tossed the paper aside and 
said this must be a Salvation lassie come to save our souls. At 
last I was given a chair and told to sit there and keep my trap 
shut; but I couldn't. 

I had so many questions. My first question, "which were 
the Republican judges and which the Democrats," was greeted 
with hoots of derision. I was informed that "we're all one big 
family here and all belong to the party." 

I was astounded when the voters finally began to straggle 
in, and money changed hands. It was known as "chain voting." 
A ballot had been obtained by my greeter, the ward heeler, 
before the polls opened, who then marked it. When the first 
voter arrived, he was given the marked ballot outside the poll- 
ing place. He then requested a ballot inside, went into the vot- 
ing booth, came out and deposited the previously marked 
ballot, gave the fresh ballot to Mr. Big who proceeded to mark 
it and pay off Mr. Voter in clear view of all of us. Now he had a 
marked ballot ready for the next voter. I rushed to the phone to 
report this violation to Mr. Courtney's office, only to be 
shoved into my chair and told that they didn't like snoopers. 

It seemed that two out of every three voters needed help 
to vote. (Nothing so legal as two judges, one from each 
party — or were there any Republicans? — accompanying the 
voter.) The curtains weren't even closed as the judge voted the 

I again attempted to use the phone and was threatened 
with being given the heave-ho. The policeman just smiled. 

As the day progressed I noticed many women coming in 
to vote all dressed in black — black shoes and hose, black 
gloves, black dress, black hats and heavy veils. Who were 
they? Had they voted before? I couldn't pierce the black veils 
to verify the vote. When lunch time arrived, I was told there 

was only one place nearby to eat, the old Lexin^on Hotel. 
When I entered the dining room, I noticed a large center table 
presided over by a chubby pink-faced man, whom I discovered 
was Hinky Dink's deputized chief of the disorderly hotels of 
the First Ward, Dennis Cooney. At this table sat ten ladies, my 
voters dressed all in black! I soon learned that this hotel was 
their home. They were prostitutes who had obeyed orders and 
voted at least four or five times each, and were now receiving 
further instructions. I gobbled my lunch, dashed to a phone to 
report my latest findings only to have it yanked from my 
hands. I was then escorted to my car and told to "scram." 

I decided this was a good time to go home to vote. After a 
block or two I glanced in the rear-view mirror to discover I had 
a black limousine escort. The car followed me for fifteen miles 
to my polling place and again back down to the 22nd Street 
polling place opposite the Lexington. 

This time when I entered the polling place, I was met by a 
"person" who told me I had another assignment. He told me I 
must move on. 

As Paddy Bauler, famous wag and saloon owner of the 
South Side, once said, "Chicago ain't ready for no reform." 


The old Lexington Hotel, the former brothel and my 
luncheon site, has been purchased by Sunbow, a woman's 
organization, to showcase achievements of women in politics, 
arts, health, and science for the 1993 World's Fair. I am 
astounded — a sin palace about to become a museum honoring 
the virtues of women! The world turns and changes, but Chi- 
cago is still Chicago. 


Delbert Lutz 

My first experience in the election process of Hancock 
County was serving on the election board in Appanoose Town- 
ship about 1930. At that time the election board consisted of 
three judges and three clerks; now there are five on the elec- 
tion board, all of whom are judges. A large majority today are 
women. I do not recall any women serving on the board at 
Appanoose Township during the ten years from 1930 to 1940. 

When I first served on the board, the polling place was 
located at the Center School, which was a one-room country 
school. It was located near the center of the township. There 
were few all weather roads, so it equalized the distance that 
people had to travel. The polling place was soon changed to a 
building at Niota because the township was getting all weather 
roads. Also, Niota had electricity and was the largest village in 
the township. As the Center School had no electricity, we had 
to bring oil lamps, and they seemed to get dim before we fin- 
ished our duties. At times we were at the polls for about twenty 
hours. After the polls closed at six p.m. (at the present time 
they are open until seven p.m. ) , we had to sort, tabulate, count, 
and record the votes. It was a long, tiring job. 

Prior to an election, the three judges would have a regis- 
tration day at the polling place where they would enter the 
names of the qualified voters in a book, taking out the names 
of the deceased and the ones that had moved. People could 
appear in person to register or were entered by the judges from 
their knowledge of the age and residence of the people. This 
method has been changed to two cards for each voter and the 
cards being filed at the office of the County Clerk. One card is 
kept there permanently; the other is returned to the polling 
place for election day only. 

The County Clerk is the registrar and he appoints dep- 
uty registrars throughout the county. I served as deputy regis- 


trar for many years, resigning in 1984. Inflation hasn't 
changed the fee for registering voters. The pay is still twenty- 
five cents for each person registered, and the cards have to be 
delivered to the County Clerk's office. 

My next experience was as Town Clerk from 1937 to 1940 
in Appanoose Township and from 1943 to 1959 in Nauvoo 
Township. The term of office for the Town Clerk was two 
years, which was later changed to four years, as it is now. Some 
of the duties of the Town Clerk for township elections were: to 
get election supplies, to have ballots printed, to make public 
the date and names of the candidates, or the propositions to be 
voted on, to send out notices, to give the oath of office to those 
elected, and to file all material that was used for the election. 

The size of the ballot depended on the number of candi- 
dates or propositions to be voted. The size of the ballot for 
township elections was never very large. For one election other 
than the township, we had a ballot with about eighty names, 
and its measurement was about two feet by three feet. Each 
ballot had to be checked by the board and tallied on a tally 
sheet. It was always stressed that there had to be a cross in the 
square before the vote could be counted. Most of the time we 
would find a few with check marks which couldn't be 

Starting with the year 1981, the state consolidated the 
elections and the county started using a vote recorder. The 
ballot used in this vote recorder is about three and one quarter 
inches by seven and three eights inches and has room for two 
hundred and thirty five names or propositions to be voted on. 
After the polls close, the ballots are delivered to the County 
Clerk's Office and are counted by machine, which takes min- 
utes, whereas it took us hours when the ballots had to be 
counted the old way. 

My last experience with elections was as Supervisor of 
Nauvoo Township from 1959 to 1981, excluding one year. 
Some of the duties I had to perform include setting up and dis- 
mantling election booths, picking up ballots and supplies from 

the County Clerk's Office and delivering them to the polling 
places in their township, plus contacting judges to remind 
them to be on duty at five a.m. on the morning of election, to 
prepare for the opening of the polls at six a.m., and assisting 
the judges in any way possible. 

People seldom think of the work that some individuals 
do to make sure that an election is handled fairly and effi- 
ciently. After more than fifty years of election work, I feel that 
voting is not only a privilege but a duty, and those who don't 
vote have no right to complain about the state or their 
nation — or their communitv. 


Clarence E. Neff 

One of my first recollections of politics was when I was 
quite small, hearing my father talk about what a great presi- 
dent Theodore Roosevelt had been. My father, a very staunch 
Republican and a Republican Committeeman in our area, 
deeply admired Teddy Roosevelt. 

My father was a very active precinct committeeman, and 
I can recall him going around on horseback getting petitions 
signed for different candidates, as well as riding around to the 
different parts of the precinct telling them about different 
candidates. This was in rural Sangamon County, and I like to 
think of my father's horse trotting down some of the very 
roads traveled by another Republican, Abraham Lincoln, a 
half-century before. 

A few years later, I believe I was about nine years old, so 
that would have been about 1918, I remember attending a 
Republican rally with my father at the New Berlin Fair- 


grounds west of Springfield. There were a lot of people and a 
lot of speeches. I don't recall what any of the speeches were 
about, but I do remember the roast beef sandwiches and pop 
they served. 

In those days there was no radio or television, so most of 
-our candidates had to visit the area in person whenever they 
could. Those were the days of "orators," and political rallies 
were often all-day affairs with people coming from miles and 
miles to hear candidates. 

Our presidential candidates generally made "whistle 
stops" through the country. The first president I recall seeing 
in person was Herbert Hoover, who made a "whistle stop" in 
Springfield. That was probably around 1928. Due to my 
father's strong interest in politics — which he imparted to 
me — I attended dozens and dozens of political rallies in my 
youth. But, to be honest, I do not recall much about the speak- 
ers at the rallies, as I was always more interested in what food 
they were serving. I can't remember a single speech, but on a 
warm summer's day, I need only close my eyes and I can still 
taste the cold of an ice cream cone served on a hot summer's 
day at a political rally many years ago. 

As I said, my father was a strong supporter of Teddy 
Roosevelt, and in 1912 he supported President Roosevelt and 
his Bull Moose Party. I believe that was the only time in his life 
that my father didn't support the Republican Party. But then, 
at that time a lot of people felt they were supporting the "true" 
Republican Party by supporting Roosevelt, and surely if he 
had been the Republican candidate, Roosevelt would have 
been elected president again. Ever since the Civil War, Repub- 
licans had dominated national politics, but with this split in 
the Party, the Democrats were able to win the presidency. 

Radio became popular in the 1930s, and the first presi- 
dent whose voice I recall hearing on the radio was Franklin 
Roosevelt. While he is best known for the "fireside chats" he 
conducted after his election, he also used the radio considera- 
bly during his campaign. President Franklin Roosevelt was 

quite popular with the people and can certainly be credited 
with reviving the Democratic Party, which might not have sur- 
vived without him. 

I recall Tom Dewey running twice for the presidency. In 
1948 he was the Republican candidate and made several whis- 
tle stops. The only time I recall seeing him was when he made a 
stop in Rock Island during the campaign. In 1948, Dewey was 
running against Harry Truman, who had become president 
upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt. 

Everyone gave Dewey the lead in that election, which was 
one of the first to make heavy use of public opinion polls. All 
the polls showed Dewey very much ahead of President 
Truman, and he evidently decided he would not make any 
"commercials" and keep everyone happy. As I recall, when he 
spoke in Rock Island he said very little and spent most of the 
time just smiling, without making much of a political talk. He 
was evidently convinced that he had the election won and did 
not have to do anything. 

That election may be best known for the famous picture 
of Truman holding up the front page of the Chicago Tribune, 
which had printed the headline "Dewey Wins" before the votes 
were counted. I am sure their faces were a little red after that. 
As I recall, the pollsters had also stopped taking polls because 
Dewey was so far ahead and they were so confident that he 
would win. 

On the state level, there have been quite a few changes in 
the General Assembly since I first took office in 1963. At that 
time, many legislators had served for many more years than 
today's average legislator. I remember that during the first two 
terms I was in Springfield we had a man serving who was 94 
years old. Also, one of the men I replaced in the House had 
served 38 years and was close to 80 years old. 

It was definitely considered a part-time job at that time 
as we usually had sessions only every two years, and generally, 
during that two-year period, we were only in session for about 
five months. This has changed, with either the legislature or 

committees meeting almost year round. The make-up of the 
legislature has changed considerably too, with many business 
and professional people dropping out because the office has 
become a full-time job. 

When I was first elected to office, we received a salary of 
$6,000 per year, plus we had an allowance of $50 a year for 
stamps and office supplies. We did receive a mileage allowance 
to pay for travel between Springfield and our districts once a 
week, but we received no living expenses while in Springfield. 
At that time, we had no personal secretaries and the only way 
we could get any help was by using the "steno pool." In the 
House, we had approximately 20 secretaries for 177 mem- 

The changes came very quickly after the approval of the 
1972 Constitution, which required annual legislative sessions. 
Each legislator has a personal office now and all have at least a 
part-time secretary. Also, in the last few years an allowance 
for home office expenses has been added. That allowance has 
been $17,000, but will soon go up to $27,000. 

I have noticed that along with the annual sessions came a 
tremendous increase in the cost of running the legislature. We 

used to operate on approximately $2 million per year. Now it is 
running over $25 million per year. It appears that we are 
becoming an assembly of full-time legislators. Today, about 
half of our legislators have no other job. When I came in in 
1963, we had several farmers, dentists, accountants, plumb- 
ers, some doctors and also, as we still have, several attorneys. 
There are still many attorneys, but very few other businesses 
or professions are represented. Although Illinois is a farm 
state, my retirement left only two House members who listed 
their occupation as farmer. 

The way the system operates today, very few people can 
handle any other business or profession outside of their legis- 
lative duties. I personally question whether this is good for the 
public. When we had several different types of businesses rep- 
resented, I felt we had a better idea ofthe effects a piece of leg- 
islation had on businesses and individuals. I feel the citizens of 
Illinois would be much better off if we would go back to 
bi-annual sessions and bring back some of these business and 
professional people, who could better balance the legislative 

V immigrants 



At the beginning of his famous book, The Uprooted 
( 1951 ), Oscar Handhn said, "Once I thought to write a history 
of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the 
immigrants were American history." Indeed, more than 40 
milhon people gave up their settled lives in other countries to 
make a new start in America, and they and their chil- 
dren entered into every facet of American life, transforming 
the country as they themselves were transformed by the 

Why did they come? As President John F. Kennedy said 
in his short book, A Nation of Immigrar^ts {1964} , "There were 
probably as many reasons for coming to America as there were 
people who came. It was a highly individual decision. Yet it can 
be said that three large forces— religious persecution, political 
oppression, and economic hardship — provided the chief 
motives for the mass migrations to our shores." 

In the history of Illinois, the quest for economic opportu- 
nity has been the chief motive for immigrants, although the 
desire for freedom influenced many, including Morris 
Birkbeck, who founded the famous English Settlement in 
Edwards County, and Eric Jansson, who led his Swedish fol- 
lowers to Henry County and established Bishop Hill. 

Early Illinois was frequently described in such glowing 
terms that easterners and Old World residents alike often 
found the lure of the Prairie State irresistible. The most well- 
known early book about the state, John Mason Peck's Gazet- 
teer of Illinois (1834), included a section on "Emigration" that 
presented Illinois as the foremost embodiment of America's 
renowned identity, the land of opportunity: 

"If rural occupations are pleasant and profitable any- 
where in our country, they must be peculiarly so in Illinois, for 
here the produce of the farmer springs up almost spon- 
taneously, less than one-third of the labor being necessary on 
the farms here than is required on the farms in the east. 

Indeed, Illinois may with propriety be called the "Canaan' of 

Industrious mechanics [i.e. tradesmen], more particu- 
larly brickmakers, bricklayers, and carpenters, are much 
wanted in the various towns in Illinois. We know of no better 
place west for a permanent location. . . ." 

As the nineteenth century progressed, Chicago became 
the destination of increasing hordes of European immigrants, 
including large numbers from Ireland, Germany, Poland, 
Austria-Hungary, the Balkans, and Italy. Those people often 
lived in ethnic neighborhoods and retained many Old World 
customs and values. Elsewhere, Germans settled in many 
communities, including places like Belleville and Quincy that 
were on or near the Mississippi River. Swedes became numer- 
ous in Galesburg, Rockford, and other towns in northern and 
western Illinois. And members of many other immigrant 
groups showed up to work on Illinois farms, in coal mines, on 
the railroads, and in factories and shops. 

The impact of these people on the state has been exten- 
sive, but their experience has often remained unchronicled, 
except for those who settled in the Chicago area. Scholars 
have written about the Irish, the Polish, the Italians, and oth- 
ers in the great city, and writers like Finley Peter Dunne, 
Upton Sinclair, Jane Addams, James T. Farrell, and Harry 
Mark Petrakis have produced important works that reflect 
immigrant life in Chicago. The experience of immigrants else- 
where in the state, where their numbers and impact were more 
limited, has seldom received attention and is often little 
known in the communities where they once lived, or still do 
live, for that matter. That represents a challenge to local his- 
torians and historical societies. 

The memoirs in this section of Tales from Two Rivers IV 
increase our appreciation for the Italian, Swedish, and Ger- 
man immigrants who came to Illinois and settled outside of 
Chicago. The very well-written piece called "The Trip Home" 
by Floy K. Chapman, while not focused on the immigrant 

experience itself, reveals the adjustment that non-immigrants comers in various localities. 

madetimeandagain when they were confronted with the new- John E. Hallwas 


Joe Mangieri 

The migration of Italian immigrants to Abingdon from 
■lersey City, New Jersey, Newcastle, Pennsylvania, and New 
\'ork occurred around 1908-1914. 

Practically all came to Abingdon instead of to Knoxville 
or Galesburg because Abingdon is where the Abingdon Pot- 
tery was. At that time the Pottery was located at the south 
edge of town, alongside the C.B.«&Q. Railroad. James 
Simpson, C. F. Bradway, and G. K. Slough were the entrepre- 
neurs who put the package together, and it was a good pack- 
age, except that the workers were unskilled and inexperi- 

Anticipated profits didn't develop. So the call went out 
for skilled help in the area of pottery manufacturing. In 
Newcastle, Pennsylvania there was a flourishing factory in 
the same business with a work force that was 80 percent 

Mr. Simpson and Mr. Slough agonized over their prob- 
lem for many days and agreed to resolve their dilemma by 
enticing Domenic Fiacco, who was first team vintage, to leave 
Newcastle and come to Abingdon. As the story goes, he arrived 
in Abingon at 3:00 p.m. and went to work at 3:30 p.m. He 
worked around the clock for 2 days. On the third day he hinted 
to his employers that he was a little tired and asked if he could 
send for more skilled help. "Beautiful," said Mr. Simpson; 
"Terrific," said Mr. Slough. "The more Italians the better." 

Within weeks Angelo Ippolito appeared on the scene. 
His arrival was not as hectic as Mr. Fiacco's. He was allowed to 
stay at the Hotel Martin over night. He was interviewed the 
next day by the timekeeper, Vernon Stockdale. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Ippolito spoke absolutely no English 
and Mr. Stockdale absolutely would not speak any Italian. 
The end result of this communication fiasco was that the word 
"Martin" came through repeatedly. Out of sheer frustration 

Mr. Stockdale struck a deal: from now on you are Andy Martin 
and I am Vernon Stockdale. For many years thereafter Mr. 
Ippolito went as Andy Martin. And reciprocally Vernon 
Stockdale among the Italians went as Stocka Dale, or Mr. 

Around 1914 a similar episode was to occur with the 
arrival of Angelo Mangieri. Same timekeeper — another good 
worker. "What's your name, Charley?" began Mr. Stockdale. 
Having been briefed on Mr. Stockdale's style, Mr. Mangieri 
announced himself loud and clear as Angelo Mangieri. "How 
do you spell if?" came the challenge. The briefing apparently 
had been inadequate — spelling was not in the script, neither 
was spelling possible — a shrug of the shoulders was his best 
effort. The dialogue ended abruptly. Mr. Stockdale took a 
piece of paper and printed "Charley Morey." 

He handed the paper to Mr. Mangieri, shook his hand, 
and delivered a huge wink that somehow said it all. Up to the 
time of his death, Mr. Mangieri was also known as "Charley 

Alex Sabetti, James Lamberti, and Jack Amato came in 
1910-1912. Ultimately all three of the above-named families 
were to become grocers. But first of all it was work at the pot- 
tery. They lived frugally, acquired some cash, borrowed some 
from friends, extended their credit, and opened up shop. No 
notes involved, just a handshake. What was the prime rate of 
interest? It was zero. And none of the above failed in business. 
Thirty to fifty years of grocering wasn't all that glamorous, 
and neither did it contribute to great wealth, but it revealed a 
commitment to commercial service. 

When Gene Petrini came to Abingdon, he brought with 
him a language rather peculiar to everyone but his wife 
Philomena. It was neither Italian nor Enghsh, neither was it a 
mixture of the two. It seemed to be rhapsody of many dialects 
beautifully blended. When Gene spoke, people listened. For 
many years Gene operated a restaurant called The Palace of 
Sweets. People thought Mr. Petrini got rich selling penny 



Lorenzo Coryo was a confirmed bachelor, who saved his 
money. He also made good wine, but made no attempt to save 
it. One Sunday he had a few of the boys over to his house in 
"Little Italy" down on south East Street. While he and the 
"boys were playing Bocce and drinking wine, another group of 
boys known as the Klu Klux Klan were at another house 
drinking beer and whiskey, waiting for darkness to come. 
Darkness came, and then came the Klukkers in their robes 
and masks in a Model T Ford, whooping and hollering. They 
parked in front of the Coryo Home, lit a fire, and burned the 
wooden cross, all the while shouting threats, insults, and 
reminders to stay in your own neighborhood. By now the mes- 
sage was clear. What at first appeared to be a wiener roast 
turned out to be pure bedlam. Lorenzo Coryo headed for the 
bedroom in search of his shotgun, proclaiming all the while 
that since he was not a family man he would risk his life for the 
protection of the rest. Luckily two of the more sober men tack- 
led him as he headed out the door, causing the gun to discharge 
with a loud bang. Needless to say, the Klukkers left in great 
haste. In later years when the younger generation got together 
for a wiener roast someone invariably would recite the above 

Some Italian families lived next to the C.B.&Q. Railroad. 
People would gather at one house waiting for the slow freight 
to show, loaded with coal. At the precise moment all would 
leave, intercept the freight, climb aboard the coal car and 
heave overboard some of the coal, which was later gathered up 
and stored in a coal shed, built especially for the purpose. 

Antonio Faralli spoke good English. With this attribute 
he served as a kind of go between among the Italians and the 
others. He operated Faralli's Billiard Hall for many years and 
was best remembered for his business-like attitude in the con- 
duct of business. Former residents of Abingdon, when visiting 
local friends, never fail to recall his interest in young people 
and his concern in their pursuits. 

The list is endless and space limits anecdotes in their 
regard. However, in the interest of recollection, these names 
come to mind: Arsenio Buzzacaci, Michael Zipparelli, Angelo 
O'Matteo, John Russo, Lougi Palmerio, Antonio Maenzo, 
Juliano Ambrosia, Angelo Perfi, Michael Rescinito, John 
Lambasio, Guidano Lambasio, Francisco Donate, Guiseppi 
Vericena, and others. 

Of course, the offspring from the above immigrants are 
countless and I am sure that all of us of the next generation are 
immensely proud of them as parents. We feel that the early 
Italians had developed a love and endearment to their adopted 
country and to Abingdon in particular. They responded to the 
needs of the community in the manner they knew best, and 
their best effort at times bordered on futility. Their Old World 
customs, their religious attitudes, their dress, their speech, 
their work habits, their maturity, and their lack of it, were all 
introduced to the Abingdon community under conditions not 
exactly favorable. This alien humanity possessed a quality of 
energy and skill that was conducive to an improvement in the 
economic climate. Here was an element that would tolerate 
exploitation. They were aware that they were being exploited 
but found solace in the fact that, even though this exploitation 
existed, tomorrow would be better. It mattered that they were 
not totally accepted by others. It hurt that Mr. or Mrs. was a 
prefix reserved for others while they were often called "Dago" 
or "Wop." And the greatest of frustrations was their inability 
to speak and understand a new language. But they worked 
hard, blended in, and as a result, Abingdon has a distinctive 



Joe Mangieri 

Hog killing, Italian style, in 1934 was not only necessary 
to provide food for the table, but was also the means for a 
"happening." In many ways the structure of the hog killing 
event very much resembled today's golf opens. It was a big pro- 

Hog killing was an annual mid-winter event with the 
scheduling done in the summer and fall. On a given Saturday, 
you were to appear at the Mangieri residence — by invitation. 
On the following Saturday the event was held at the Maenzo 
residence, and so on. Failure to invite all to participate was 
unpardonable and could very easily be interpreted as a snub — 
with the consequences that snubs usually generate. Needless 
to say the invitation list was carefully scrutinized so as not to 
leave out any of the paisanos. 

Invariably someone would inadvertently be left off the 
list, and when this happened a problem was sure to surface. 
Hurt feelings would soon be in evidence, and the maligned 
person played his part to the hilt with recitations of unworthi- 

At this time a committee of three would be appointed to 
make a call on the offended one. The committee would supply 
itself with a few bottles of wine and then call on the offended 
person. After two or three hours of stroking, with assurances 
that the omission was by accident and not by design, the hurt 
person would agree to accept an apology. 

One such incident occurred when I was eight or nine 
years old. In this case my father was on the committee and we 
all went to the home of Guiseppi (the offended one) to take 
care of the problem. Guiseppi was true to the script — sullen 
and not too communicative. It wasn't until the second bottle 
of wine was consumed that he began to mellow out, but only 
after he had vented his feelings well. He referred to last year at 
this time when he had hosted the hog killing and how he dele- 

gated to Lougi (the offender) the high honor of sticking the 
hog with his best knife, and how after Lougi had bungled the 
job the hog broke loose and ran away squealing with everyone 
in pursuit. He also noted how all the women in the neighbor- 
hood became hysterical, witnessing the chase of many men 
and barking dogs after the wounded hog. After finally catch- 
ing up to the exhausted hog, Lougi was offered a second 
chance to do it right. Guiseppi then reiterated that for the 
blown assignment he refrained from scolding Lougi. His sug- 
gestion was, though, that in future hog killings, Lougi was not 
the man to use the knife, but rather he should be relegated to 
the task of stirring the blood as it gushed from the hog. That 
job was usually reserved for a young boy — perhaps Lougi took 
it as a put-down. 

By now the third bottle of wine was gone, and the proce- 
dure advanced into the stage of everyone talking at once, 
much backslapping and a continuous round of handshakes. 
My dad was not a great energetic talker. He had, however, a 
keen sense of timing and I noticed that on different occasions 
he would mutter something about "Let by-gones by bygones; 
everyone deserves a second chance; it takes a great man to 
accept apologies." One more bottle of wine and Guiseppi 
agreed to accept apologies properly offered. Mission accom- 

I reviewed this incident in my mind many times as I grew 
up and have never been able to conclude whether the omis- 
sions were an accident or deliberately designed so as to pre- 
pare the way for committee action. Be that as it may, I find it 
comfortable living with either concept. The one thing I am 
sure of is that with the much more sophisticated methods of 
butchering today, hog killing, Italian style of 50 years ago, 
would certainly not be tolerated. 

I remember that in those years, when I was going to and 
from school, my schoolmates would sometimes inquire as to 
why my people chose to butcher with such extravagant energy 
and festivity. Of course, I had no reasonable response at that 


age, but in review I believe that getting as much social mileage 
as possible out of a necessary function helped them tolerate a 
dismal winter and was a means of bringing each person into 
contact with others for a valid reason. Certainly the price was 

Everyone shared in the ultimate product, and it was 
another means of cultivating a cohesiveness in a sometimes 
not too friendlv environment. 


Glen rose Nash 

Among immigrants from Sweden, one or two adventur- 
ers in each family usually led the way. Olaf Peterson, my great - 
uncle, was the one in my family. Why he came, I wish I knew. I 
like to think that he was somewhat of an idealist, inspired by 
Eric Janson's plan for a religious-oriented, communal colony. 
Whatever his impetus was, he chose Bishop Hill as the place to 
settle. He was not to remain there long, for the Civil War was 
on the horizon. In 1861, he enhsted at Galesburg, in Company 
C, 43rd Regiment, Illinois Volunteers. Later, he was in the 
57th Regiment. During his two years in the Union Army, he 
fought in the battles of Shiloh and Fort Donnellson, among 
others. He arrived back home to find that his younger brother, 
John (who was to become my grandfather), had left Sweden 
and had settled in nearby Wataga. He had married Bengta 
Parson in Sweden and a daughter, Anna, had been born to 
them. Now he was preparing a home for his wife and child. 
About this time, Olaf moved from Bishop Hill, but not before 
marrying a local girl, Sigrid Johnson. They made their home 
in Wataga, too. Before long, Bengta and Anna had traveled 
across the Atlantic Ocean and on to Chicago, where her hus- 
band met her. After a voyage, steerage class, and a tiresome 

trip overland, how happy she must have been to be almost 
home — at last — in Illinois. Both of the Peterson brothers were 
to live the rest of their lives in Wataga, each reaching more 
than 75 years of age. Their descendants gravitated to 
Galesburg gradually, but the old hometown drew them back 

I did not ever see my great-uncle or my grandfather. 
They both died before I was born, in 1918. My recollections are 
of my grandmother and of the next generation — the six chil- 
dren born to the John Petersons: Albert, Charles, Oscar, 
Emma, Anna, and Minnie (my mother). All of them could and 
did speak Swedish. Whatever I heard in that language was not 
at all revealing to me. My grandmother taught me a few 
rhymes and how to count in Swedish. In fact, although she 
would converse in her native tongue at family get-togethers, 
she learned English early. She was determined not to be a 
"Green Swede," and later she taught her neighbors the new 
language. She even changed her name to an Americanized ver- 
sion, Betsy, a name that my daughter now bears, in front of 
another Swedish name, Anderson. 

Wataga was largely settled by Swedes. Those with 
enough money bought farmland at the almost unbelievable 
price of $1.25 per acre. John Peterson was not one of these 
people. He felt lucky to buy a house with five acres around it 
on the edge of Wataga. He had earned the money working at 
the local brickyard before Bengta arrived. Her home was 
always her best-loved place. Even when she was very old, she 
wanted to be back there at night. She didn't mind at all milk- 
ing the cow, raising chickens, and keeping a garden, besides 
her other tasks. After all, back in Sweden, women were accus- 
tomed to doing farm work. Having a house, barn, and a piece 
of land of their own represented a certain status. Back home 
they had been merely peasants. Here, they were already prop- 
erty owners. John, and later, his son, was now digging coal 
from the hillsides beyond town. Every morning he set out 
before daylight to walk the mile or so to the "banks." Nowa- 

days, in this Wataga-Victoria area, enormous steam shovels 
extract more coal in an hour than he and his companions did 
in a day. 

A dirt road straggled past the house. A tew, initially 
small, but later, much added-to, homes appeared at intervals. 
A cinder path led the four or five blocks to downtown. The 
Petersons didn't need to buy many supplies from Sweden. As 
in the old country, Bengta would soon begin spinning and 
weaving cloth to make into clothes for her growing family. 
Yard goods could be bought, but money to buy it was scarce. 
The big loom, once set up in the parlor, is gone. The only part 
left from the spinning wheel is the wheel itself, now kept in my 
parlor, along with a pair of carding brushes, two Staffordshire 
dogs, a castor with some cruets replaced, and Grandma's por- 
trait in the original, curliqued frame. This thrifty housewife 
gathered and stored eggs in salt-filled crocks in the fruit cellar 
under the kitchen. She skimmed the cream, kept cool in the 
same place. Fresh meat was cooked or salted to preserve it for 
winter. Vegetables and fruit were dried or canned. Only flour, 
salt, baking powder, coffee, sugar, and rice were bought. 

Although I have few tangible reminders of that immi- 
grant lifestyle, I can picture it clearly. In the last years when 
the Petersons lived in that small version of the common "T"- 
shaped farmhouse, I visited it many times. It had six rooms, 
but they were small. The main part contained a parlor and 
bedroom, with two attic-like rooms above. The one-story, 
lean-to section had a sitting room and kitchen. Coal and stor- 
age sheds strung along behind. Down the path from them was 
the unpainted, unlovely outhouse. 

Mostly my memories center about that kitchen, largest 
of the rooms. It had to be, with the big cookstove located there. 
Beside it was a coal bucket and scoop, and back in the corner 
was a pail of corncobs for starting the fire. In winter, an assort- 
ment of boots, coats, and gloves were stashed to dry out. In 
another corner was a dry sink, with its washbasin, water 
bucket, and dipper handy. Somewhere close by was the tall. 

wooden churn. Built-in cupboards were as scarce as closets in 
those old houses. For dishes and staple foods, a roomy, free- 
standing cupboard known as a pie safe was utilized. Small 
vents allowed the steam to escape from the freshly-baked pies 
set within to cool. A shelf on the wall had a supply of kerosene 
lamps, kept filled and wicks trimmed. A large oval table and 
accompanying plain wood chairs occupied the center of the 
room. There the family and visitors gathered for tasty (and 
high-caloried) Swedish food. Fruit soup — a mixture of dried 
apples, pears, peaches, prunes, and raisins, with a little rice for 
thickening — was a favorite. Equally delicious were the pastry, 
rolls, and doughnuts, with the "holes" for us children. Home- 
made rye bread made with cardmon seed, and crisp rusks (like 
German zweiback) were always on hand. The latter were 
dunked into coffee, but children were not permitted that bev- 
erage. Coffee was boiled in a mottled gray granite pot, with liq- 
uid clarified by an egg mixed with the grounds. I had always 
watched, fascinated, as my grandmother turned the handle of 
the wooden coffee mill, grinding the coffee beans. 

To a city child (from Galesburg), the sources of water 
were intriguing. I looked into the murky depths of the rain bar- 
rel outside the back porch, but was repelled by bugs floating on 
the surface. This soft water was used for washing, after first 
being heated in a big copper boiler. A reservoir on the back of 
the stove kept smaller amounts always hot. To go across the 
road and work the handle of the neighborhood pump and see 
water gush forth was the most fun. I didn't consider what a 
chore it was to carry those heavy buckets of water back to the 

Whenever my parents and I visited my grandmother in 
her last years, we sat, appropriately, in the sitting room. Its 
furniture was strictly for utility: a few extra kitchen chairs, a 
cot, a small dropleaf table. On a wall shelf, a tall, carved wood 
clock ticked. A bracketed holder on the wall held a kerosene 
lamp, and a big pottery dog doorstop held the upstairs door 
shout. The adjoining parlor was closed off in winter, since the 


heating stove was in the sitting room. In summer, I could 
unmelodiously pump the old organ. How many eggs and how 
much milk my grandmother sold to buy that organ and pay for 
my mother's lessons, I cannot imagine! I didn't care to linger 
on the stiff settee or on its two matching chairs. "Oatmeal" 
wallpaper, lace curtains, kept stiff and straight by curtain 
stretchers before hanging, a tacked down carpet, a lamp with a 
decorated china shade, a vase or two, a few pictures, and the 
Swedish Bible on a round table completed the scene. Grand- 
ma's most prized possessions were in that parlor, so they were 
seldom used. 

I loved the adjoining bedroom, used in later years for a 
spare one, because it had a down-filled feather bed. What a 
luxury to sleep on it! My grandparents had once slept there, 
while the six children somehow managed to sleep in that low- 
ceilinged space upstairs under the eaves. A closed-in, steep 
stairs led to that half-story area. In my day, the bulky, scarred, 
wooden trunk brought from Sweden stood at the top of the 
steps. A few discarded items lay in it: a faded sunbonnet, two 
or three old aprons, a moth-eaten, red-printed tablecloth 
favored by the Swedes, a few ancient arithmetic and reading 
textbooks. None were very advanced, since fifth grade was the 
limit of the children's education at the village school. 

Church was not only the center of religious, but of social 
life as well. My mother remembered that as a child a bit of 
candy and a small gift from the Sunday School tree was her 
only treat at Christmas. Services were in Swedish, even when I 
was growing up. The Ladies' Aid Society met at the members' 
houses. When my grandmother took her turn, she cleaned 
every corner of the house and served her best baked delicacies. 
That was not the only time that she shared. When neighbors 
were sick, she took food to them. All the immigrants helped 
one another. They could not have existed without such aid. 

As was the custom, Swedish girls "worked out" for fami- 
lies in the "burg" (Galesburg). My mother and her sisters left 
home at 16 or 17 and took jobs. They made good maids. Such 

qualities as thrift, neatness, and willingness to work brought 
them good husbands, too. Being a good cook didn't hurt, 
either. Although my father worked for W. A. Jordan Company, 
wholesale grocers, many of the Swedes, like Carl Sandburg's 
father, worked in the C. B. and Q. shops. Others were carpen- 
ters, tailors, and store keepers. The older two Peterson "boys" 
stayed in Wataga and worked in the coalbanks, but Oscar, the 
youngest found work in the East Galesburg brickyard and 
then worked on the section gang for the railroad, as far away as 
Wray, Colorado. 

During the last ten years of Bengta's life (from 1915 to 
1925), she was glad to have Oscar, who was a bachelor, return 
home to live with her. On her eightieth birthday, friends, rela- 
tives, and neighbors came to help her celebrate. That was the 
last really happy occasion in the old house because later that 
year, her daughter Emma died from cancer. I can scarcely 
recall either of those events, but I remember my grandmoth- 
er's death and the funeral held in the parlor, with people over- 
flowing onto the front porch and into the yard. It all seemed so 
hushed and solemn in contrast to the good times that I had 
always had among my Swedish relatives. Only a few of the eld- 
erly people could have thought back to the experiences in the 
new homeland that they had shared with Bengta, John, and 
Olaf. The young wife had tried to leave old ways behind, but 
she had succeeded only in transferring her strict set of values, 
her skills, and her customs to another setting. She probably 
did not ever realize how much of the old country she had 
brought to the new one. As those early days of immigration 
recede in memory, those of us of the third and fourth genera- 
tions appreciate more and more the legacy that people like the 
Petersons left for us. It gives us a sense of continuity in our 
own lives and the duty of passing on the Swedish traditions to 
our descendants. 



Annie Enborg Exalena Johnson 

On February 6, 1920, I set out for Cambridge, Illinois, 
from N. R. Solberge, Sweden. I was twenty years old at that 

After a couple of train rides and a boat ride over the 
Atlantic Ocean. I finally landed in Chicago, lUinois about 
noon on March 6, 1920. When I got off the train in Chicago, I 
was all alone. Not knowing any English, I just sat and watched 
the people go by. At 3:00 p.m., the conductor put me back on 
the train and off I went for Kewanee. 

llpon arriving at the Kewanee train depot, a lady came 
up to me and started asking me many questions. When the 
lady realized that I knew no English, she went to find someone 
who could speak Swedish. She found a man who worked at the 
depot who could speak both English and Swedish. 

The man asked me if I was scared. I replied, "Yes." The 
three of us were finally able to carry on a conversation with the 
man being the interpreter. After we talked for awhile, they 
took me to the hotel where I was to spend the night. The lady 
got me settled into my room and then left. 

After I had a nice hot bath, I re-dressed and decided to 
take a walk around the hotel. By this time, I was getting pretty 
tired, so I decided to go back to my room to bed, knowing that I 
had another hectic day ahead. 

Even though I was so tired, I couldn't sleep. I was so 
scared. All I could think about was what would happen to me. I 
had heard so many stories of what happened to young girls 
coming to America. 

At 6:00 a.m. the next morning, the lady came back with 
breakfast for us. We had coffee and sandwiches. After we were 
finished with breakfast, I went down to pay my bill. The lady 
said to me, "Annie, don't be scared." Once again we went to the 
train depot. 

When we got to the train depot, we saw the man who had 

helped us the previous day. He asked me if I remembered him 
and I said that I did. 

While I was waiting for the train, a man came uj) to me 
and said that he would take me to Cambridge. The man from 
the depot heard him and said, "No, she has to ride the train 
because she has a ticket and has to use it." 

The man from the depot told the conductor about me 
and how scared I was. The conductor was real nice and took 
good care of me. He didn't speak any Swedish, but he would 
pat me on the shoulder and tell me everything would be okay. 

There was a heavy set man also riding the train to 
Cambridge. I thought he looked like a Swede. He came over to 
me and started asking me questions in Swedish. He asked, "Is 
your name Annie with three names, and are you from 
Sweden?" I said, "Yes." The man, whose name was Andrew 
Larson, turned out to be a friend of my aunt and uncle. Ester 
and Swan Olsen, where I was going to stay. Aunt Ester was my 
father's half sister. 

Mr. Larson asked me if I had ever met my aunt and uncle. 
I replied, "No." I told Mr. Larson that my father's half brother, 
Carl Peterson, had paid $200 for me to come to Illinois. Since 
uncle Carl was a bachelor, I was to stay with Aunt Ester and 
Uncle Swan. I would look for work to pay Uncle Carl back. I 
would work for Aunt Ester and Uncle Sam to start with in 
return for a place to stay. 

Mr. Larson discouraged me from working for my aunt 
and uncle. He said, "It is real hard to work for relatives." He 
told me that he had worked for his relatives when he first came 
to lUinois and it just didn't work out. "They expect too much 
out of you," he said. "You are better off trying to find a job with 
Americans, even though you don't speak English. The Ameri- 
cans are smart and you will understand each other soon. The 
Americans will be good to you." 

When we finally got to Cambridge, Uncle Swan was there 
to pick me up. We went "home" and we had a big dinner of 
roast beef, potatoes and gravy, and pudding, which I had to 

help Aunt Ester make and serve. 

My uncle's sister, her husband, and two girls, along with 
two neighbor families, joined us for supper. 

After supper was finished and we had cleaned up, we sat 
around talking. Everyone kept staring at me. I was so embar- 
rassed. I was starting to pick up some English words now, and 
could tell that they kept saying how "rosey" my cheeks were, 
how pretty my hair was, and what a nice shape I had. 

My "rosey" cheeks were from working and being outside. 
My hair was blond and I wore it in braids wrapped around the 
top of my head. 

The next morning, Uncle Swan took me to the shed 
where I was supposed to do all the washing. The shed was not 
very good. It was pretty dilapidated. The boards were loose 
and would blow back and forth. The motor on the washing 
machine would now and then quit working and I would have to 
run it by hand. 

I had to wash and cook for my relatives and three hired 
men. Aunt Ester and Uncle Swan had eleven children and 
were expecting their twelfth. It was sure a lot of hard work. 
Guess they figured I was a "tough Swede" and could handle it. 

The first time I saw Uncle Carl, he wanted to buy me new 
clothes. He and Aunt Ester thought that my clothes were too 
"Swedish" and that I should have American clothes. 

My Aunt Matilda back in Sweden had made me clothes 
and a coat before I came to America. I told Aunt Ester and 
Uncle Carl that the clothes I had were good and that I was not 
going to buy any American clothes! I was too set in my ways! 

Whenever my aunt and I would go to the store, everyone 
would stare at me. I would ask my aunt why everyone always 
talked about me and she said, "They're just curious about the 
Swedish girl." 

I had been at Aunt Ester and Uncle Swan's for about two 
weeks when my uncle's cousin asked if I could come and stay 
with him and his family for awhile to help out. My uncle said I 
could, so off I went to the Anderson's. Mr. Anderson's wife was 

sickly, so I had to care for their two small children as well as do 
all of the housework. 

The work was easier than at my aunt and uncle's because 
I only had seven people to wash and cook for, compared to six- 
teen at my aunt and uncle's. The Anderson's had a much nicer 
shed, too. It was real sturdy and nice and warm. 

One day Mr. Anderson came and told me that there was 
going to be a lot of extra men for dinner the next day. He told 
me the men were coming to help shell corn. He wanted me to 
prepare a large dinner. 

Mr. Anderson went to the store at Osco, a small town 
nearby, and bought meat and vegetables for me to cook. He 
also told me that he wanted me to make seven cherry pies! 

I didn't even know what a pie was! We didn't have pies in 
Sweden. When I asked how I should make one, Mrs. Anderson 
said to use lard, flour, sugar, and cherries. "Just use you own 
judgment," she said. And that's just what I did! 

The next morning at 5:00 a.m., I got up and found some 
pie tins and all the ingredients I would need and went to work 
on making my first pies. The cherries were pretty pale looking 
and sour, so I added some sugar to make them sweeter. Then I 
mixed some flour, lard, milk, and sugar together. I figured 
somethings had to go in the bottom of those tins. Then I put in 
the cherries and topped them with another layer of mixture. 

After the pies were all baked, I showed them to Mr. 
Anderson. He said, "They look better than my wife's." I told 
him, "You'd better not say that!" 

The men came to help Mr. Anderson shell the corn, and 
at noon they all came in for dinner. They were all real curious 
to see what a Swedish girl looked like. They thought I looked 
pretty good. I knew what they were thinking and I gave them a 
look like "You leave me alone!" One of the young men said, 
"Oh, she has sharp eyes." They knew I meant business. (But 
they all liked the pies.) 

I worked two weeks for Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and then 
went back to Aunt Ester and Uncle Swan's. 


When I got back there, I had to work real hard. Not only 
did I have to bake, cook, and wash, but now I had to start clean- 
ing t he house too. I didn't get paid anything for my work either. 
Like I said before, they thought I was a "tough Swede" and 
could handle it! 

Every now and then. Uncle Carl would come and see me 
and we would go for a ride. It bothered me that I hadn't been 
able to pay much of his $200 back. 

I stayed at Aunt Ester and Uncle Swan's for about three 
weeks. Then another cousin of my uncle's, Eric Gustafson, 
asked him if I could come and help him and his wife for about a 
week. My uncle said, "Yes." It would be helping with house- 
work and baking. 

While I was there, Mrs. Gustafson's sister was there for a 
visit. She asked me if I would like to go to Moline and work. I 
said, "Yes." 

We went to Moline that day and went to where she 
worked. The lady she worked for was rich. She saw me and 
wanted to know who was in the car. She came out and said to 
me, "How pretty you are. Just look at those 'rosey' cheeks." 
She asked, "Would you like to work for me?" I said, "Yes, but 
I'll have to check with my aunt and uncle first." 

When I asked my aunt and uncle if I could go and work 
for the lady in Moline, that Mrs. Gustafson's sister worked for, 
they told me, "No." This was in April. After my week was fin- 
ished at the Gustafson's, I went back to my aunt and uncle's. 

In May, we had a real hard freeze and all the corn crop 
was destroyed. So, guess who had to replant it? That's right! 
Me, and all by hand! That was a real hard job! 

After working so hard and for so long for my Aunt Ester 
and Uncle Swan with no pay, I decided that I should find a job 
so I could start paying Uncle Carl back. 

I went to Andover, a town a few miles from Cambridge, 
and met Mrs. Ed Walline. I asked her if she needed someone to 
do housework for her. I told her I was a good hard worker. She 
said that she would talk it over with her husband, and then let 

me know. She got back to me with good news! "Yes," hey could 
use some extra help around the house because they also had a 
store to run in town. 

I started to work for the Wallines in June. I was paid 
$4.00 a week. By fall I had paid the whole $200.00 back to my 
uncle Carl that I had owed him. I worked for the Wallines until 

I had a couple of more housekeeping jobs in the area, and 
at one of them I met my husband, Severn Johnson. We were 
married from February 5, 1923, to February 8, 1952. We had no 

Even though I missed my dear homeland of Sweden and 
never returned, I have been very happy and contented and ful- 
filled with my life in Illinois. I have had a lot of experience and 
have many, many friends. I thank my good Lord daily for all 
He has given me! 


Effie L. Campbell 

The picture is that of an old man, with flowing white 
beard and piercing eyes. The clothes are of an old fashioned 
cut, the kind worn shortly before the turn of the century. The 
man in the picture was my grandfather on my father's side of 
the family, and when I studied his face in the past, I never had 
any feeling of kinship for a man I never knew. It was only after 
I started doing the family history that I began to identify with 
him and the ancestors before him. Then, as I put together the 
bits and pieces, a story of courage and adventure began to 

It started back in Germany well over two hundred years 

ago. Like so many places in the "Old World," the Palatinate, a 
rich, agricultural region of Germany, was a target for warring 
princes of various realms. It was also a battleground for reli- 
gious wars between Catholics and Protestants, and the "little 
people," the farmers and tradesmen, suffered the most. When 
word of a new land across the Atlantic filtered back to them, 
many saw new hope for their future. But first, they had to 
escape the bonds of the past. 

That is why, in 1738, two brothers by the name of 
Bauman (one of whom became my great, great, great grandfa- 
ther) were among those who chartered boats to take them 
down the Rhine River to the Port of Rotterdam. That alone 
was a long, arduous journey. But it was only the beginning. 

Taking ship at Rotterdam, the immigrants were then 
transported to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, off the coast of 
England. There they were forced to wait until a ship was avail- 
able for their journey across the Atlantic. If it's beginning to 
sound like smooth sailing from there on in, it's far from the 

The ships used to carry the immigrants to the New 
World were galleys, not much better than slave ships. The peo- 
ple were packed aboard them like sardines in a can, without 
proper food and water. Many became ill on the passage over, 
and some of them died and were buried at sea. Storms on the 
Atlantic were especially fierce in the wintertime; that's why 
the immigrant ships ordinarily set sail for America in the sum- 

The ship on which my immigrant ancestor sailed later 
arrived in the Port of Philadelphia in the dead of winter, sug- 
gesting a forced layover in the Azores, according to our family 
historian. It was she who searched the ships' lists of passen- 
gers and came across the names of the two Bauman brothers. 
She also found their signatures on the Oath of Allegiance to 
the King of England. 

Perhaps her words can describe the discovery more dra- 
matically than I can: "On February 7, 1739, Jacob Bauman age 

22, and his brother "Daniel Jacob' age 18, arrived in Philadel- 
phia on the Jamaica Galley from Rotterdam, last out from 
Cowes on the Isle of Wight with 320 passengers, Robert 
Harrison, Captain." 

She then goes on to explain that "Daniel Jacob" was 
actually Daniel George who was to become the head of our 
family in America. Because his English was limited, he was 
able to write "Daniel" fairly well but couldn't manage 
"George," so he copied part of his brother's signature. 

About here, I might indulge in a bit of imagination. I can 
picture the two brothers, dressed in their homespun clothes, 
waiting in line, eyes fixed apprehensively on the clerk at City 
Hall. I can imagine that gentleman as well-dressed, possibly in 
the king's livery, or barring that, at least wearing a curly, white 
wig, silken neckcloth and a snowy white waistcoat under a 
knee-length coat. 

Speaking in German, Jacob says: "Are you ready little 
brother? Our turn is soon." 

And Daniel George, with awe in his voice, whispers back: 
"He looks so grand, Jacob. Almost like the king himself." 

To calm his brother's fears, Jacob answers: "He's no bet- 
ter than you or me. He's only a clerk in the service of the king." 
The clerk raps on the table. "Next!" 
It's then that Jacob steps up to write his name proudly on 
the Oath of Allegiance, followed closely by his brother. I have 
copies of their signatures on that document, and because it 
may be of historical significance to others, I'm setting down 
the words to the Oath of Allegiance: 

"We subscribers, natives and late inhabitants of the 
Palatinate upon the Rhine and places adjacent, having 
transported ourselves and families into this Province of 
Pennsylvania, a colony subject to the Crown of Great 
Britain, in hopes and expectations of finding a retreat 
and peaceable settlement therein, do solemnly promise 
and engage that we will be faithful and bear true alle- 
giance to His present majesty, King George the Second, 


and his successors, Kings of Great Britain, and will be 
faithful to the proprietor of this Province; and that we 
will demean ourselves peaceably to all His said majesty's 
subjects, and strictly observe and conform to the laws of 
England and of this Province, to the utmost of our power 
and the best of our understanding." 
What a mouthful for two simple farmers to swallow! 
After the oath was signed, physical examinations were 
given and passage money paid. The fare ranged from twenty- 
seven to about seventy-five dollars, and those with no money 
had to sign terms of "indenture" — bonded service to work out 
the passage money. Fortunately, the Bauman brothers were 
able to pay. 

They settled first in Pennsylvania, but later on (about 
1745) they took the "Great Road." a trek of over 400 miles 
across mountains and wild terrain by cart and oxen, to North 
Carolina. There, they built their sturdy homes in the Catawba 
River Valley, not far from the foothills of the Great Smoky 

Daniel married Mary Bolch, and the family name was 
translated into Bowman. His oldest son (another Daniel) 
became a landowner of some extent. In 1769 he was given a 
grant of 200 acres by King George III; then he received a 
state's grant of .300 acres, and to this he bought up and added 
some 200 acres of land. One of his sons was Joseph, my great 

To that fertile valley came more and more of the German 
immigrants. They were farmers, good law-abiding citizens 
who raised large families and food enough to feed them. And 
like good Americans, they paid their taxes promptly — except 
for the tax on home brewed "spirits" — to that, they objected 

There's a story our family tells about the apple harvest in 
the valley. They dried some of the apples as "schnitz," and in 
the words of one of the Bowmans, "We put up some and made 
a little brandy to have trouble over." 

During the Revolutionary War, the German settlers were 
not entirely convinced they should fight a war against the 
grandson of the king they had sworn allegiance to. But when 
the war threatened their peaceful valley, many of them took 
up their rifles and joined the local militia. I've found one 
account of a Captain Bowman who was killed at the Battle of 
Ramsour's Mill. That was near the well documented battle of 
King's Mountain. 

It was in that valley in North Carolina that my fat her was 
born during the Civil War. He was the only one of my grandfa- 
ther Jacob's five sons and three daughters who left North Car- 
olina. But first, he married and fathered children. Sometime 
after his first wife died. Dad packed up his trunks and his chil- 
dren and came to Illinois. He married my mother, and they 
settled on a farm in Cass County. 

After I learned the full story of my heritage, I could look 
at Grandpa Bowman's picture with a keener perception. I can 
now see those same piercing eyes in the face of a young man, 
stepping down the gangplant of the Jamaica Galley, looking 
hopefully toward a strange, new land. 


L. M. VanRaden 

I have always been not only fascinated by the stories of 
my immigrant forbears but immensely moved by their experi- 
ences which, today, seem like pure fiction. Often one hardship 
followed on the heels of another! 

First of all, there were pressures in leaving the homeland. 
Family members told them to stay, the energetic young people 
who were full of adventure and promises of better things. 
Then the continuing warfare between France and the 300 
independent German states under Austria meant there was a 


commanding need for manpower. Young men of strength and 
stature were sought for the armies. My grandfather's brother 
was one. After long dehberations, the family had finally 
reached the port of embarcation and had boarded the sailing 
ship. It had been a struggle that far, disposing of property, 
finding transportation to the port, saying good-byes, resisting 
all the hustlers who would deprive them of the meager remain- 
ing means intended to get them started in the new land. They 
were an intimidated people, to be sure, but the family was still 
intact. Then the searchers came on board. They weren't inter- 
ested in the older folk. They were seeking the young, stalwart 
passengers, those who would be best to keep the warring 
armies supplied with soldiers. It was understood there were 
three potential recruits on board their vessel, and inspectors 
were commanded to locate, arrest and remove every one of 
them before the boat embarked to the new land of freedom. 
Everyone was tense, of course, not the least of whom were the 
nervous parents, Charlotte and Henry. Perhaps the journey 
should not have been attempted after all. What would they do 
if their second son was discovered? His age and size made him 
a prime suspect, nearly 21, tall and strong. Then someone 
thought of it: "Why not hide him?" There were piles of rope 
everywhere on deck, and because winds were calm, departure 
was being delayed. That was it: "Why not conceal the lad in the 
coiled ropes until the boat left shore?" And so it was that one 
young man sat in a crouched position in the coiled ropes of the 
Harzburg for days until sailing winds prevailed, and thus 
evaded the draft in 1866. 

But not all the threats had been overcome. A severe 
storm overtook the immigrant vessel at sea. Passengers feared 
the ship would not survive for the severity of the storm, but 
after six weeks and four days, the sailing vessel managed to 
enter New York harbor in a badly damaged condition. Yet the 
story does not end here. 

After reaching Castle Garden at New York, where emi- 
grants were momentarily deposed at that time, no doubt my 

father's family felt a sense of relief and may have taken a bit of 
time to rest before encountering the next step of their journey 
inland. Then it happened! Another hustler, this one on the 
"shores of freedom," robbed the family of the funds intended 
to establish them in the new home here. Fortunate indeed were 
these poor immigrant grandparents of mine to have a friend in 
America who knew and trusted them. It was Ernest Vieregge 
of Freeport, Illinois, who wired funds to New York for my 
father's people to come to Stephenson County, Illinois, and 
then helped them find a place to live and to work during the 
early years of this part of the state. 

We do no know that Ernest Vieregge's name ever 
appeared in a newspaper or a history book or any account that 
mentioned the accomplishments of early settlers in America. 
He had no descendents to honor or distinguish him. As far as 
we know he was a humble blacksmith by trade, but his name 
stands high in my father's family history, and we are still 
grateful after 120 years! 


Wilson M. Baltz 

The story of the murder of all five members of a German 
immigrant family has been folklore for more than a century in 
and about Millstadt in St. Clair County. 

During the night of March 19, 1874, the members of the 
Steltzreide family, consisting of Carl, a widower age 70, his 
son, Frederich, 35, Frederich's wife, Anna, 35, and their two 
children Carl, 3 years, and Anna, 7 months, were bludgeoned 
to death and decapitated while asleep in their beds. A neigh- 
boring farmer, Ben Schneider, discovered the enormous crime 
the next morning, March 20, which was, oddly, the first day of 
Spring. As he later told me, when he walked into the farmyard. 


he sensed immediately that all was not right. The horses had 
not been fed and the cows had not been milked for a long time. 
He was puzzled because he knew the family was not inclined to 
let the stock go unattended. Now seeing nor hearing anyone 
about, he went to the rough-hewn log house. No one answered 
his calling or his rapping on the door. Hesitating a moment for 
fear that his uninvited entry would not be welcomed, he 
pushed open the slightly ajar door. Glancing into a bedroom, 
he saw the family sprawled about the room, murdered. 

The crime occurred in a locality called Saxtown, four 
miles south of Centreville (now Millstadt). Saxtown, like the 
neighboring localities of Boxtown, Bohleyville, Darmstadt 
and Herr Godt's Eck (Mr. God's Corner), was strictly rural. It 
had no municipal government. Its boundaries were invisible, 
yet definite. Those people of Saxtown were immigrants from 
the Old World, having emigrated to the New World after the 
Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Hessen-Darmstadt, Bavaria, 
Baden and Saxony were their places of origin in the Father- 

The Saxtownites lived in rugged austerity. The homes 
were made of squared logs or rough-cut boards — simple, yet 
adequate. Clothing was home-spun, and many farm imple- 
ments and tools were hand-made. Crops were planted and 
harvested, and food was preserved for the long winters. Meats 
were cured by either smoking, salting or drying. Nothing was 
wasted, not even kitchen fats from which soap was made. The 
immigrant settlers were energetic, industrious and frugal. 
They believed that by the sweat of the brow a man earned his 
bread. They practiced in what they believed. Work was their 
god; frugality, their creed: faith, their salvation. 

When the bodies were discovered, someone rode horse- 
back to Centreville to alert the citizenry. From there, a rider 
was sent to Belleville, the seat of county government, to sum- 
mon Sheriff James W. Hughes. Hughes and his team of inves- 
tigators, including his son, Deputy Julius, left for Saxtown in a 
two-horse rig. Coroner Ryan was summoned from East St. 

Louis to conduct an inquest. The inquest lasted all night and 
into the next day. No real motive for the killings was deter- 
mined. Some speculated that a family feud between the young 
wife's brother-in-law and the old man was the reason. Specu- 
lation pointed to robbery as the motive. Young Steltzreide was 
to have been expecting a sum of money from Germany, an 
inheritance from an estate. It was said he walked to 
Centreville every few days to inquire at the post office. He was 
seen at a farm sale four days before his murder with a tightly 
covered basket, closely guarded. He refused to reveal its con- 
tents. A theory held that the money he inherited was in the 
basket because he stopped at the farm sale on his way home 
from the post office. However, the basket was found inside the 
house after the murders. It was never ascertained that he 
received any inheritance. 

Some thought that the killings were committed by some 
maniac living in the vicinity. That was baseless because every- 
one in the area knew everyone. Whoever committed the crime 
must have known the family and the floor plan of the house. 
And Steltzreide's dog was known to bark at only strangers. If 
the killer was a stranger, certainly the dog's barking would 
have awakened someone inside the house. 

One thing was undeniably established: the killings were 
done by one person, a left-handed person, man or woman. The 
pattern of marks on the head board and a door jamb by the 
instrument of death was proven to have been that of a left- 
handed person. 

Detectives, both professional and amateur, tried to solve 
the crime and collect the $3,000 reward, but to no avail. Henry 
Steltzreide, an invalid brother of the old man, offered $1,000 
for the apprehension of the killer. However, he withdrew the 
reward offer when he and his son were arrested for the murder. 
Both were exonerated in a short time. 

The Steltzreide family, members of the young Zion 
Evangelical Church in Centreville, were buried in the 
Freivogel Cemetery on Sunday, March 22. More than a thou- 


sand people attended the graveside services conducted by the 
Reverend Jacob Knauss. Friends and relatives of the family 
raised enough money to buy a lot in Walnut Hill Cemetery in 
Belleville. Their intention was to move the dead family to Wal- 
nut Hill to lie under a ten-foot high stone memorial to "Die 
Ermordete Familie" (The Murdered Family). However, the 
Trustees of Zion Church, who had jurisdiction of Freivogel 
Cemetery, refused to allow the disinterment of the bodies 
"now and forever more." So, ironically, the family lies buried in 
five unmarked graves some twelve miles from another ceme- 
tery in which a memorial, pointing heavenward, stands in 
their memory. 

Another odd twist to the story occurred later and opened 
old wounds to revive rumors and speculation. A young man, 
mentally unbalanced, had in his possession a man's hunting 
watch of German manufacture with a likeness of the old man's 
deceased wife on the inside of the cover. Persons positively 
identified the watch as being Carl Steltzreide's and insisted 
that he would have never parted with his priceless keepsake. 
Questioned by authorities, the unfortunate young man gave 
several versions of how he came into possession of the watch. 
He said he found the watch; that it was given to him by the old 
man; that someone gave it to him, someone he did not know. 
Yet, no one was a stranger in the community and he was a 
stranger to no one. The one version which baffled and 
intrigued the authorities was that he was in the company of 
the killer that night. Try as they might, the authorities could 
not cope with the complexities of his mind to determine the 
truth of his astounding statement. The burning questions 
remain: Was he at the scene of the crime? Did he kill the fam- 
ily? Did he think his alter ego to be the killer? 

A century has passed since that frightful night in 
Saxtown. The house in which the five died was in continuous 
use until 1954 when it was dismantled and a new structure 
built on the foundation. The original barn is still in daily use. 

The elapsed time of the past century has erased much of 

the spoken and written word. The fortunes of some of the 
principals are known. Names of arrested suspects are not 
mentioned for reasons of the right of privacy of living rela- 
tives. Fred C. Horn, Foreman of the Jury at the inquest, lies 
buried in the St. Paul United Church of Christ Cemetery at 
nearby Floraville. Sheriff James W. Hughes was killed in a fall 
into a stairwell in the County Court House in 1881. His son, 
Deputy Julius Hughes, met his demise in the tornado which 
ravaged East St. Louis on May 29, 1896. He was found several 
days later in a demolished brick freight house. Ben Schneider, 
discoverer of the crime, and his wife, Kate, served as custodi- 
ans in the Millstadt Public School for the eight years that this 
writer attended it. Parents of three, Ben and Kate lived to be 
81 and 90 years, respectively. They lived at what is now 105 
East Mill Street. They were neighbors. I knew them well, and 
they were important sources of information about the murder 
of the Steltzreide family, one of the great tragedies of the Ger- 
man immigrant experience in Illinois. 


Floy K. Chapman 

It was five o'clock in the morning on March 16, 1910. 
Already, we were on our way to our new home at Virden. I was 
nine and our entire life had been spent on the little farm about 
six miles west of White Hall. Now, Grandpa sat in the front 
seat of the surrey and guided the farm team down the long, 
country road. My brother and I sat beside him. Our mother, 
my younger brother, suitcases, a picnic basket, and various 
packages holding the necessities of travel filled the back seat. 
All was quiet, except for the sound of turning wheels and the 
inevitable plop of hooves on the country road. The little farms 
along the road were coming to life. That was livestock country, 
and we felt at home with the animals and the farmers who 


tended them. We were facing the East, and a glorious pink 
sunrise welcomed us. 

On we went, past the proud, big houses where M(.)ther 
had often delivered fresh country butter at the back door, and 
on to the smaller houses around the big factories with their 
huge buildings and kilns. Several railroad tracks ran along the 
west side of the factory, and the depot stood just short of the 
railroad. Here, our grandpa stopped and hitched his team. 

It was a bustling place, and soon our grandpa was busy, 
unloading the surrey and buying tickets. He showed my 
mother how to manage, and told her to not be afraid to ask 
questions. "You will have to change to the L. C. and W. at 
Carrollton," he said. "Then, at Carlinville, you will change 
again. There will be a short wait there. Just wait and they will 
give directions." 

Soon, the train came chugging in from the north. 
Grandpa went on the train with us and helped us to get settled. 
There were blasts from the whistle, and he left us just as the 
train pulled out. 

The trip to Carrollton was uneventful and short, but it 
was an adventure to us. At Carrollton, we left the train and 
were soon on the new train, under the care of the accommoda- 
ting train men of the L. C. and W. It was one of those small rail- 
road lines that connected the busier lines running north and 
south from the larger cities. The little lines were very impor- 
tant to the farmers who had settled the country in a day when 
there were only poor, muddy roads. The initials of the railroad 
stood for Litchfield, Carrollton and Western, although some 
of the people who used it frequently were inclined to call it the 
"Look, Cuss, and Wait" Line. 

Boxcar stations were situated about ever so often along 
the railroad. Often, they were named for a nearby farmer. 
Sometimes, there would be an elevator, a few houses, and a 
side track where boxcars could be loaded from a small lot 
where livestock were taken or received. It was all very infor- 
mal, with no station master and a telephone call to the nearest 

depot sufficed when cattle were to he shipjjed or received. Peo- 
])le who wanted to ride or disembark simply went to the station 
and waited until the train came. 

The crew consisted of the engineer, brakeman, and con- 
ductor. During the years we were privileged to ride the L. C. 
and W., Bob Shackleton was the conductor and general boss of 
this little railroad. He wore a blue uniform and cap, was 
friendly and greatly respected by all. He called the names of 
the tiny stations and took care of business while the train was 
moving, making out reports on a small, portable typewriter. 
Going east from Carrollton, I remember these stations: Daum, 
Kahm, Greenfield, Fayette, Reeder, Hagaman, Carlinville, 
Barnett, Litchfield. Probably, there were others that I do not 
recall. Just east of Carrollton, Mother opened the picnic bas- 
ket and we ate most of the rest of the way. We had drinks from 
paper cups beside a container of water, and of course, we used 
the restroom as often as possible. It was a real experience — 
accompanied by fear. "What if we fell through?" My mother 
laughed at that, and told us a story about an old farm woman 
who got sick on the train and lost her new false teeth through 
the toilet. We did not think it was funny, but she did. 

Finally, after many stops — one at a place where a road 
crossed the tracks, we arrived in Carlinville. At the depot 
there, we continued eating and even struck up conversation 
with some of the other travelers. 

It did not take long to go from Carlinville to Virden. The 
train was faster and better, and there were only three stops — 
Nilwood, Girard, and Virden. The first thing we children saw 
in Virden were two small, dark men with coal dust on their 
faces, dinner buckets in their hands, and lamps on their caps. 
We were entranced because they were talking at a great rate 
and we could not understand anything they said. Next, we saw 
our father, smiling all over his face. When we got through 
laughing and hugging him and our mother, he took us to the 
hitch-rack where our own horses stood with our surrey. How 
our parents talked! It had been a week since we had seen him. 


as he and our old, hired man had accompanied most of our 
things in a boxcar when the last of the moving took place. 
"Oh," he said, "This is a good move. I love the place more every 
day. The farm lies along the Sangamon-Macoupin county line. 
There are acres and acres of good black soil and nice modern 
buildings. Another family lives in a httle house near ours. 
They have children and their father works for me. They will go 
to school with you children." 

I looked at him doubtfully and thought of the two black- 
faced men we had seen at the depot. At long-last, I dared to ask 
him about them. How he laughed! "They are white, just like 
us," he said. "They are Italian miners and they had been at 
work and had coal dust on them." 

"But, what about their talk?" 

"There are many miners here from other countries," he 
said. "Some are blue-eyed and light-colored, just as we are, 
and they all talk different languages. Our nearest neighbors 
are German farmers, and there are many families of Irish, 
English, Scotch, French, and Austrian descent. Some people 
from Greece run a restaurant and a fruit store. Some yellow 

Chinese people run the laundry. The children learn to talk 
English and how to live the American way after they start to 
school. I think we are living in the new America." 

"But, what about our old neighborhood?" our mother 
asked. "What about all the white, blue-eyed people who came 
up from the south and worked so hard — all the good peo- 

"That is it. They are all good as I am finding out. These 
are good people, too." 

By this time, we were at the new home. Our own old dog, 
Tim, a Gordon setter, met us before we were out of the surrey. 
The old man came to the door with a dishtowel pinned on like 
an apron. His "Thank God" sounded very sincere to me. Ham 
and fried potatoes were cooking on our own stove. We were 
home — a new home in a new place, with our own little family 
and our own little things. The old life was gone. We had trav- 
eled into a new world not over sixty miles away from the old 
place where I was born. We had come a long ways, and it was 

VJ Around Home 



It may be the second most important decision ot a per- 
son's life— where he or she lives— although we spend nowhere 
near as much time in choosing where we live as we spend 
choosing with whom we live. Often our habitats are chosen 
quickly as temporary quarters (which have a habit of becom- 
ing long-term and even permanent dwellings), or because a 
good home comes suddenly on the market at a good price, or 
because we need someplace to live, and quickly too, because, 
well, we have to get on with our work. Even in the old days, 
when choosing a home often also meant choosing a farm, or 
when families often designed and even built their own homes, 
or additions to homes, the dwelling place was a consideration 
secondary to vocation. 

In those days, of course, women spent much more time 
inside the house than men, and they were usually in charge of 
furnishings and decorations . . . within the limits of what a 
husband could provide or would tolerate. But not often did a 
husband purchase a building just because his wife had taken a 
fancy to it. The home-maker worked within narrowly defined 
limits in making a house a home. 

As is so often the case, it's the small, unconscious deci- 
sions that most affect our lives. Our most vivid memories are 
of the most trivial details of childhood: the peculiarblack-and- 
white salt and pepper shakers Mom salvaged from the old 
stove and continued to use all through our school years; the 
kitchen table bought who knows where and when, around 
which so much of our life revolved; the maple leaf designs on 
the crocks of sauerkraut and pickles down in the fruit cellar, 
the old halhree at the foot of the stairs, the distinctive wallpa- 
per in the best parlor, the smell of polish Mom used on the 
livingroom furniture, the peculiar way Dad shook the grate on 
the coal stove each morning. 

Most commonly, those memories associate themselves 
with a room or a person, and most commonly — perhaps 

because home was so very much a wife's responsibility — that 
room is the kitchen and that person is Mom or (Grandma. Like 
the present-day recreation room, the old fashioned kitchen 
was large and full of varied activities. It was the heart of the 
house: people ate there, mother did her daily chores there, and 
the rest of the family spent much of its indoor time there. This 
only made good sense, because the kitchen contained a source 
of heat (no central heating in the old days), and kerosene lan- 
terns could be, should sensibly be, concentrated in a single 
room to reduce expense and maximize light. The best parlor 
was used only infrequently: a visit from the minister, relatives, 
or a suitor; a funeral or a home wedding; some other ceremo- 
nial occasion. The best parlor was not a warm room in any 
senseof the word, and although it contained the family's new- 
est and best furnishings, it is not well remembered. Upstairs 
bedrooms were also not warm rooms, being heated, usually, 
only with whatever heat escaped the kitchen stove and drifted 
up a staircase or a floor grate. On winter nights, children 
changed into bedclothes quickly beside the still warm kitchen 
stove, then scurried up the stairs and dove under quilts and 
feather beds. Is it any wonder that the kitchen is remembered 
far more fondly than the bedroom'? 

As much remembered as the kitchen itself is the mother 
whose domain it was. Like her room, she is remembered as a 
symbol of sustenance: neither unattractive nor attractive 
(although neat, clean, groomed); cooking endless suppers; 
preserving endless jars of fruit, vegetables, and meat; boiling 
water for baths, laundry, cleaning a scrape or cut; stoking the 
stove ( although hauling water, wood and ashes was a job invar- 
iably assigned to children); ironing the laundry in the days 
before permanent press and drip-dry. Images of heat, warmth, 
and food surround the mother like a halo: the smell of fresh- 
baked bread, the feel of warm water, the taste of fruit preserves 
and baked pies, the stove glowing cherry red or golden yellow. 
In contrast, the modern kitchen (and the modern mother) 
seem infinitely more convenient, but somehow less warm and 


somehow less sustaining. Memories of mother or grand- 
mother in her kitchen sometimes evoke in daughters and 
granddaughters feelings of guilt, inadequacy, envy or 

Another focus of home memories is also associated with 
food and su.stenance: the smoke house or the fruit cellar, the 
food storage area filled with bins of apples and potatoes, stone 
jars of preserved meats and fruits and vegetables, smoked 
meats hanging from the ceiling, and the long shelves of glass 
jars filled with peaches, cherries, apple sauce, pears, quince, 
tomatoes, beets, pickles, mincemeat. The cellar was not warm 

but cool, not light but dark, not feminine but somehow mys- 
teriously masculine: it represented the father-provider, a little 
distant, a little forbidding, somehow slightly forbidden— but 
rich in its own fashion. 

Details of homelife were not, as we've said usually 
thought out with much deliberation, and probably the special 
warmth of those details could not have been contrived. Life 
around home was as unconscious as it was routine, and per- 
haps for that reason the most powerful of memories. 

David R. Pichaske 



\'irginia Dec Schneider 

Our all-purpose room didn't look at all like the modern 
recreation-room, den or family room you see today. Actually, 
when I was a little girl growing up on the south side of Chicago, 
our all-purpose room was our big, yet cozy, old-fashioned 

At one time this flat we lived in — my mom. dad, brother 
and two sisters — included a front parlor. However, we seldom 
used this room except when my baby sister Janie died of influ- 
enza. She was then laid to rest in her tiny coffin in this front 

Soon afterward, the landlord decided to rent our front 
parlor to a new tenant of the combination grocery and meat 
market in front of our building. From that time on, all our 
activities took place in this large kitchen, making it truly an 
all-purpose room. It became the epitome of our life together. 

On cold winter mornings, for instance, no one had to 
wake us up for school. Dad got up before anyone else and we'd 
hear this harsh sound dad made while shaking the grates free 
of ashes in our pot-bellied coal stove which stood proudly in 
the center of this kitchen. He then had to go outdoors to empty 
the ash pans in the alley behind our building. 

After dad shoveled more coals on the fire and warmed 
the kitchen for us, we'd tumble out of bed quickly and dress 
around this stove. I remember that I'd pull up a chair and raise 
my feet up onto the shiny nickel-plated collar which adorned 
this stove; then I'd toast my toes. Our bedrooms were not 
heated at all, so you can imagine how good this warmth from 
the stove felt on frosty mornings! And Chicago mornings are 
frosty indeed! 

I didn't waste any time getting into my long underwear as 
I carefully wound its legs under my long, tan, ribbed stockings. 
Then I'd put on my above-the-ankle, tan-with-black-trim, 
laced shoes. 

I really hated that lumpy look of the long underwear 
showing through my stockings! I'm ashamed to admit that 
often as soon as I walked far enough away from home so that 
my mother couldn't see me, I'd roll up the long underwear legs 
above my knees from under my stockings. 

One morning while my sister warmed her bare back 
around this pot bellied stove, she stood too closely and toasted 
the part where she sits down too long and it took awhile before 
she felt comfortable sitting down! 

After we'd come home from school, what a welcome sight 
it was coming in out of the cold, to see this bright, cheery fire 
glowing in the stove's isinglass windows. Dad once told us that 
this isinglass was made from the swim bladders of fish like 
sturgeon. It withstood the fire yet was quite fragile when 
poked with a finger. Once, my younger sister poked her finger 
deliberately through one of the isinglass windows after she got 
spanked for misbehaving. She didn't try it again, though, 
because this finger test earned her another spanking! 

This kitchen also served as our play-room. One day after 
school, my mom had a pot of pumpkin soup simmering on the 
back burner of her gas range which stood against a wall, while 
my brother and I played catch with a good-sized ball. Much to 
my mom's dismay, our ball plopped right inside the pot! Oh 
well, pumpkin soup was not one of my favorites anyway. 

On Saturdays, since the bathroom wasn't heated, our 
kitchen became a room for bathing as well. Mom would place a 
galvanized tub near the warm stove, pour hot water in it and 
give us our baths. Dad would shine our shoes and line them up 
neatly by the stove for us to slip on for church the next morn- 

Besides the stove, our sturdy, large, square-shaped 
wooden table played a prominent part in our all-purpose 
room. This talDle was usually covered with white oil-cloth 
which was easy to clean by wiping it off with a dish cloth. 
When company or the parish priest came calling, mama would 
cover this table with a white tablecloth. 


After school, we'd do our homework at this table. Mama 
would often send me to the store in front of our building to buy 
meat for our dinner. After she'd unwrap it, I'd smooth the 
clean part of the butcher wrapping paper on the table. Then 
I'd pencil sketch my own paper-doll and her wardrobe, while 
my brother spread out his collection of milk bottle caps and 
counted them. 

When mama wanted to use the table to prepare our din- 
ner, we'd duck underneath and pretend it was a tent and con- 
tinue our play activities. 

If the kitchen windows steamed up from mama's cook- 
ing, we'd satisfy our urge to fingerpaint by making pictures 
with our fingers. When we were finished, mama would hand us 
a rag to "erase them please," she'd say. 

Saturday was mama's baking day, and we'd gather 
around the table and mama would assign a task for each of us. 
One of my sisters grated nutmeg, the other beat eggs, and I'd 
sift the flour. Mama creamed the butter and sugar by hand, 
since we had no electricity. Gas was used for cooking, and a gas 
fixture with a mantle to cover it gave light. 

Mama used butter because margarine wasn't used much 
then; besides it was sold plain white. Jelke margarine had a 
packet with yellow coloring enclosed, but it was a messy, do-it - 
yourself project. 

On Sunday it was fun to watch mama make noodles for 
the savory chicken soup that was simmering on the stove. 
Deftly, she'd slice the dough into narrow noodle strips. We also 
enjoyed watching her make crullers for dessert, especially the 
part where she'd flip one edge and insert it inside a gash she'd 
made in the middle of a cruller. Each one measured about five 
inches long and two inches wide. Mama would fry these in 
deep fat then dust them with powdered sugar. What a treat to 

If an unexpected caller came to the door, mama kept her 
comb handy in a mirrored cabinet over the kitchen sink so that 
she could spruce up in a hurry. Inside this cabinet, she also 

kept our all-purpose medicine . . . castor oil! It must have been 
big business in those days, for no matter what ailed us we got a 
dose of castor oil! 

When a doctor did come to call, mama would spread a 
thick blanket over the kitchen table and lay the sick child on it. 
The doctor was pleased to work at this height. How happy we 
were when he didn't advise an enema. That and castor oil were 
quite common treatments in those days! 

This all-purpose room also served as a laundry room. 
Mama's washer? It was two galvanized tubs with a standing 
hand wringer in the middle. Other equipment was a wash- 
board and copper boiler steaming on the stove. She'd rub the 
clothes with a bar of Pels Naphtha soap on this washboard 
inside one of the tubs filled with hot water. Then she'd feed 
these clothes inside the wringer and keep turning the handle 
until the clothes fell into the other tub of clear rinse water. 

The white clothes mama would drop into the copper 
boiler filled with boiling water and Pels Naphtha soap chips 
which she shaved herself with a knife. Bleach and umpteen 
detergents weren't invented yet! Mama used a long sturdy 
stick to remove the hot clothes. 

After all the clothes were rinsed once, they went into a 
bluing rinse to assure a really white wash. After all, mama 
didn't want to hang out a tattle gray wash for all the neighbors 
to see! There were no automatic clothes dryers made in those 

Mama also ironed in this all-purpose room. She heated 
what were called sad irons on the gas stove. She had a special 
handle which she would attache to the iron she was using while 
another iron was heating on the stove. These irons were 
pointed at both ends. 

Over a thick blanket, placed on our large square table, 
she could iron a whole pillow slip at once without moving it 
around. A sheet needed to be folded over only a few times. It 
was just as easy to do curtains, since this table was much wider 
than the ironing board of today. Those items needed to be 

irnned. since there was no permanent press materials made as 

In a corner of this kitchen stood mama's treadle sewing 
machine, which she hadtopump with her foot. I had the job of 
dusting the iron grill stand under the machine since mama 
said my fingers were small. 

Another corner provided my brother's and sister's enter- 
tainment center. It was a huge rocker with two solid arms. On 
these we would pretend we were riding our horses far, far away, 
riding a street car or a carousel. 

Just before Christmas, dad would go up in the attic to 
bring down our artificial tree. By today's standards, it would 
be considered a very poor specimen, since it was quite scrawny. 
Yet to us it was beautiful, with its lighted candles inserted in 
metal holders snapped onto the tip of each branch. 

One evening while everything was peaceful in our all- 
purpose room, mama sitting in the rocker knitting mittens for 
Christmas gifts and dad shoveling more coal in the stove while 
we children were doing our homework at the kitchen table, our 
hair practically stood on end when we heard this loud bang on 
the back porch! 

Dad went out to investigate immediately. He sure was 
surprised to find a large bottle of whiskey which a prohibition 
violator tossed out. Hot on his heels was a police officer with 
his horse going "clippety-clop, clippety-clop" at a break-neck 

"Now this is what I call a fine Christmas present," dad 
beamed as he brought the bottle into our all purpose room, 
poured himself a drink, and wished us all a Merry Christ- 


Em Baker Watsan 

When I was a child and spent the night at Crandma's 
house, the crazy quilt on my bed fascinated me. I remember 
sitting up the next morning and poring over the tiny pieces 
that made up the quilt. 

They were in odd shapes, sewn together, all joinings out- 
lined with a feather stitch. The fabrics were beautiful and I 
ooh-ed and aah-ed over them, imagining each garment from 
whose scraps the pieces had been cut, picturing myself grown 
up and dressed in such elegance. There were velvets, silks, sat- 
ins, and brocades in luscious colors, a quilt impractical for 
general use, but ideal to enchant a grandchild who visited. 

Looking back I see that crazy quilt as a symbol of my vis- 
its to Grandma's house and the varied experiences of my early 
years there. In memory, those times are a kaleidoscope, now 
showing one design, then with a slight turn of the mind a dif- 
ferent pattern, all within one setting: Grandma's house. 

Grandma, who had been a widow many years, was a 
matriarch. The lives of her six children and their families 
revolved around her. Her code of ethics and behavior set the 
standard we all were supposed to live by, and I never heard it 
questioned, back then. 

My visits were mostly pure leisure, but in the late sum- 
mer and early fall, the tempo quickened. It was apple harvest 

I can still see — and smell — the old "packing house" and 
the long table down which the apples rolled to be graded. On 
each side of the table stood workers who sorted the fruit 
according to size, quality, and color. When I grew tall enough, I 
got to be one of those sorters, earning actual money. 

As the apples rolled down the table, the scrawny ones fell 
through holes into baskets below. These were taken to the end 
of the building where an odd-looking contraption stood. 

This was the cider mill that with groans and squeaks 


pressed out juice to make a golden nectar ot'the gods. It made a 
I'unny sound, "oh-WA-a-a-oh-WA-a-a-a-ow." We children had 
Cun imitating it. 

Cider was good when it was fresh and sweet, but best 
after it had aged enough to have a tangy "bite." Not hard, you 
understand. Grandma's teetotaler principles would tolerate 
just so much bite. 

Much of the apple crop was shipped from Brownfield by 
rail, but Grandma did a steady business with local customers 
who came to the packing house to buy a winter's supply of 
Jonathans, Winesaps, Rome Beauties, Kinnards. My favorite 
was one I haven't heard of in years — Grimes Golden. 

Sometimes people who didn't know Grandma very well 
would make the mistake of stopping by for apples while on a 
Sunday outing. It mattered not how far out of their way they'd 
come, Grandma wouldn't sell them one apple. To her, keeping 
the Sabbath holy meant no money changing. 

During summer vacations other grandchildren — my 
cousins — would come to visit and my sister and I would join 
them there, sure that Grandma was delighted to have us all 
pile in at once. She did have a lot of headaches, as I remember. 
Today I suspect the reason. We all felt secure in her love, 
although she was not the spoiling, overindulgent type of 

Only one time did I ever see a sign that she had had just 
about enough of us. 

She had a lovely phonograph — an Edison — that stood 
on legs and had a crank sticking out from its side. One evening 
it was playing, wound up tight. My cousin, Robbie, was stand- 
ing by it near the creek, raptly listening. My sister, Juanita, 
crept up behind her and shouted, "BOO!" 

Robbie shrieked to the top of her voice, jumped, striking 
the crank which forthwith came "unlatched" and went into 
reverse, CLACK-CLACK-CLACK-ing at a terrific rate of 
speed, making a perfectly awful racket. I can still see Grand- 
ma's what-on-earth-now expression as she rushed in from the 

kitchen to see what we were up to this time. She said very little 
(her face said it all), but I know she was ready to send us all 
home about then. 

We weren't always inside and under foot, for out in the 
driveway stood the old surrey. It had been replaced by the 
Maxwell touring car sitting in the garage. But what do you do 
with a surrey when you buy an automobile? Probably it had no 
trade-in value, so there it sat, ready for grandchildren who 
filled it and took many "rides" in it, slapping imaginary reins 
on the team of horses conjured up out of our make-believe 

I suppose it was because I was a "middle child" that my 
best times were when I was the sole visitor — those days when, 
being bored at home, my mother would let me go to visit 
Grandma. On those visits Grandma and my aunts and uncles 
made me feel special. Middle children need that. I felt like Lit- 
tle Red Ridinghood as I walked those two miles up through the 
woods to reach the winding dirt road, meeting no one — 
certainly no wolf, in that safe era. I always gathered wild flow- 
ers from the roadside for bouquets to take to Grandma. She 
received them as graciously as if they'd been American Beau- 

I loved to roam the house, especially the attic rooms — 
one a coy bedroom with sloping ceilings, the other a catch-all 
for everything that didn't belong anywhere else. It was filled 
from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall, leaving only a nar- 
row walkway down the middle. There was an unbelievable col- 
lection of old trunks, clothes, stacks of magazines, photograph 
albums, cast-off furniture, an accordion, a guitar, and a 
violin — family keepsakes galore. Downstairs there was a small 
counterpart to this, a bureau drawer that I always longed to 
look in, but would spend hours getting up courage to ask 
Grandma's permission. She laughed but never refused. 

It was filled with hundreds of little things that there was 
no real place for — worthless, actually — but a treasure trove to 
me. I'd find jeweled combs to wear in the hair (with teeth and 


gems missing), empty powder boxes, Ijrooches and "breast 
pins," odd beads, bits of necklaces, fancy hair pins. 

Then there was the button box. Grandma's family saved 
every button. When a garment was discarded, the buttons 
were cut off and put in the box. Might need them sometime. 
( irandma could tell me the history of each one. "These were on 
my wedding dress." Others were from a baby dress of one of 
the two she had lost in infancy. "Here's one from your great- 
grandfather's Civil War uniform." 

At Grandma's house there was music — a piano, the 
Edison, and later on there was one of the first radios in the 
community — an Atwater-Kent, complete with headphones. 

But it was the piano that I loved. I learnedtopickout one 
tune and would entertain my long-suffering relatives with 
"Work For The Night Is Coming" until the enjoyment was 
almost more than they could stand. Uncle Hal, the perfection- 
ist , gave vent to his enjoyment by often interrupting me to cor- 
rect my mistakes. 

After supper he would play his cornet and Aunt Elva 
would accompany him on the piano. We never dreamed how 
much we were deprived because television had not been 
invented. Creativity thrived in Grandma's house. 

Grandma's house was built for her by my grandfather 
before they married. She told me she never went near it until 
he took her there as a bride. 

They were engaged, but it would have been unseemly for 
her to have anything to do with their future abode before mar- 
riage. She told me about riding her horse along a distant ridge 
some miles away, from which she could look down across the 
fields and see the house under construction. This was as close 
as propriety allowed. 

When I was older, the pull of Grandma's house didn't 
diminish. The whole clan still gathered there for family din- 
ners. I thought nothing of inviting a friend to go along, for food 
and hospitality were expandable to accommodate any unex- 
pected visitors. I never doubted my guests would be wel- 


One morning last fall a phone call came telling me that 
the lovely old home had burned the night before. I felt a wave 
of nostalgic sadness; then I began to realize that the century- 
old wooden structure was only that: A wooden structure. What 
Grandma's house really was stood untouched — in my heart. 

The house and premises had long ceased to be what 
they'd been in my childhood. The people into whose hands the 
property had passed had let it fall into a sad state of disrepair. 
Now that it was destroyed, it seemed almost a mercy, for the 
way it had come to look was a desecration. 

My kaleidoscopic memories of that warm, crazy quilt 
time of my life are still intact. In maturity I came to know 
something I took for granted then, that the strict standards 
Grandma set (the rigidity of which I've later privately and cau- 
tiously challenged) — actually were safeguards during my for- 
mative years. 

To me, the atmosphere at Grandma's house exemplifies 
the expression "the bosom of the family." Children who live in 
close contact with grandparents receive a nurturing of untold 
value. Our own daughters grew up within a few blocks of two 
sets of grandparents, a benign circumstance. 

In today's migratory society, this is lost to many — 
including our grandchildren, whom we see only on visits, 
weeks and months apart. This, I know, is making a difference 
in the lives of us all. 



Irene Barkon Tinch 

I was born three days before Christmas and ten days 
liel'ore the advent ofthe twentieth Century, in a town ofproba- 
bly two thousand people, set amidst farmland that had for- 
merly been prairieland in central Illinois. 

The streets were very straight and long, bisected by 
sidestreets separating the blocks. A block was occupied by six 
houses, usually made of clapboard siding. In our neighbor- 
hood the houses averaged five rooms and 3/4th of them were 
one-story. There were no circles or squares or by-streets in the 
whole town. 

Inside the house, every room was plastered, even and 
smooth, and covered with wallpaper of many designs. At no 
time did I ever see a wood-paneled room except in picture 

The front room, or parlor, got the most expensive wallpa- 
per, which was sometimes striped or flowered or had other 
designs. Many ofthe stripes were gold or silver, or the flowers 
had a touch of gold or silver. Here in the parlor, never a small 
room, home weddings took place. It was also where the 
preacher or any other dignitary who visited was received. And 
it was also where the family dead lay in their coffins for several 
days before the funeral services. Funeral parlors were seldom 
used, perhaps because there was a lack of transportation in 
those days, and it was a long way from the edge of town to 
downtown where any funeral parlor would be located. 

The kitchen wallpaper was usually a dull color with small 
flowers or other motifs. Smoky stoves tended to dull the color 
ofthe paper, and less expensive paper was used here. The din- 
ing room paper was usually gay and cheerful. The bedroom 
paper was subdued. Wallpaper made our homes look very 
neat. One couple that I knew changed their wallpaper every 

But I do remember some very ugly wallpaper. It had a big 

pattern of a large shield with crossed spears and some other 
paraphernalia. Not only was the design ugly, but the coloring 
was awful — either a bilious green or a nauseous red. When the 
paper faded, it looked even worse. As I grew older, I saw less 
and less of it; perhaps they had quit manufacturing it or peo- 
ple quit buying it. 

There were other things on the walls besides paper. Just 
about every home had a large motto, either framed or 
unframed. The two that I saw most often were "GOD BLESS 
THIS HOME" and "HOME! SWEET HOME." The mottoes 
were usually sold by peddlers or door-to-door salesmen. 

On the wall of my uncle's home was the following motto: 





Another motto that I remember showed a clown in baggy 
trousers leaning against a post and holding a large doughnut. 
The verse said, 





Frequentlv the mottoes had Bible quotations. One that I 
TAKETH AWAY." This was frequently quoted to parents who 
had lost a child, for there was a high death-rate among small 
children. It meant that they had been given their child for a 
limited time. 

Occasionally in the parlor, one saw a big, carved, heavy 
frame containing the picture or photograph of a very dignified 
man who usually wore a beard or a moustache. Occasionally 


one saw a group photograph of a band-group, a hall-team 
group or some other group. But most family pictures were in 
the family album. 


Luu Gamage 

It has been said that t he older you are, the colder were t he 
winters of your youth, the deeper were the snowdrifts, and the 
farther you walked to school. Although such stories may be 
somewhat exaggerated at times, they usually contain some 
element of truth. 

To those of us who associate our good old days with the 
era before the horse was replaced with the automobile, the 
winters were probably more severe, not so much due to the 
lower temperatures, deeper snows, or lustier winds, but 
because of the conditions under which we lived. 

I can remember my own home very well. It had been built 
by my grandfather and added onto by my father. It was heated 
with stoves that burned either wood or coal, and the house was 
blessed with neither insulation, sheeting, nor basement. A 
small cellar under the original portion of the dwelling could be 
entered only through an outside doorway, which in the cold 
weather was covered with old carpeting to keep out the cold. 
During the winter months the cellar was a place of wonder. 
Along one side were large bins piled high with potatoes and 
apples, and on the dirt floor there would be two or three ten- 
gallon stone jars filled with "fried-down" pork chops, loins, 
and sausages. At one end of that semi-dark Ali Baba's Cave, as 
far from the doorway as possible, were shelves loaded with 
glass containers of tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, pickled 
beets, and mincemeat. 

Overhead, beneath the heavy oak joists which supported 
the living room floor, my father would hang the smoked hams 

and pork shoulders, and for a while after winter began, there 
would be some large slabs of fresh "side meat." This great 
abundance from the land, however, depended each year upon 
theproductivity of our little farm, fori also can recall the time 
when the bins were only partially filled with a few undersized 
potatoes and worm-eaten apples, and the tantalizing store of 
meats and canned vegetables was conspicuous by its 

Monday was the traditional wash day. Being the only boy 
left at home, I was responsible for having the firewood and 
water ready, so on the evening before, it was my job to fill the 
woodbox behind the big black kitchen range, and leave an 
ext ra wheelbarrow load on the back porch. Then I would carry 
enough water from the well about twenty-five yards away to 
fill the large copper boiler, two rinse tubs, and the reservoir of 
the stove. 

As my father's health steadily failed, and the older sis- 
ters married and established their own homes, I gradually 
became the man of the family. The financial circumstances of 
my aging parents kept deteriorating, until our only means of 
subsistence was the sale of milk from five old cows. During the 
summer, my mother would supplement our meager income by 
selling vegetables from our large garden. I recall that the price 
of milk was five cents per quart and roasting ears sold for ten 
cents per dozen. In my fifteenth year I raised a crop of corn, 
plowing the soil with a pair of ancient horses and a walking 
plow. Turning the earth in fourteen-inch furrows, I couldplow 
three acres in one day. Tilling was done with a one-row cultiva- 
tor, and the harvesting was accomplished by hand. 

My oldest brother, who entered the University of Illinois 
the year I was born, was the only member of the family who 
had a steady job, being the head football coach of the Univer- 
sity of Kentucky, at Lexington. When I was sixteen, he bor- 
rowed the cash value of his life insurance, paid off the 
mortgage on the land, and assumed ownership of the home- 
stead that Father had spent his whole lifetime trying to own. 

The parents, however, were to have a home there as long as 
they lived. 

The winters of my youth, although enriched by countless 
recollections of parental love and good times together, will 
always live in my memory as times of almost unbearable cold, 
hard work, and, as I entered my teen years, hunger. Those 
frigid mornings when I would take the old kerosene lantern 
and make the rounds, feeding the two old horses, a half dozen 
sows, and the five cows with their calves, seem like only yester- 
day. My young life began in a time of relative prosperity, and I 
matured when the Great Depression was at its worst. 

I cannot remember not milking those cows, huddling as 
close as I could to their hairy bodies, my palms warm but the 
backs of my hands freezing, twice a day, seven days a week. It 
was always my job, among my seven older sisters, there was 
not one tomboy. Vivid is the memory, though, of how cold it 
was in that old barn, and how bitter was the wind that howled 
around and through the walls of the birthplace of three gene- 
rations: my father, my son, and myself. 

School was never a problem of distance, for the farm was 
situated at the edge of town, and we actually lived on a city 
street; and all but three years of my education was acquired in 
the same building, located only seven blocks away. 

If we could have afforded a thermometer to show us the 
actual temperature, or a radio to give us a weather report, I am 
sure that the average winter would have proven to be much the 
same as those of today. The two factors that seem to make the 
difference are, I believe, the vast improvements that have been 
made in our standard of living, and, of course, the enhance- 
ment of the hardships of days gone by, through the magic of 
much retelling. 


Kathryn Steward Roan 

As I look back over my years of life, I believe a few years 
in my early childhood were the most enjoyable, the ages five to 
eight. At this time I lived in Augusta, Illinois. I had no fears, 
cares, problems or worries. My mother was a very happy per- 
son who sang a lot. She could cook, bake, sew, iron, mend, cro- 
chet, knit and tat, hem stitch by hand and do all the many 
things to keep a happy home. 

My days were filled with excitement. Oh! I remember all 
the wonderful things I could make from wallpaper books. My 
older sisters made me beautiful doll clothes for my cardboard 
doll. I played hours and hours with them. My sisters also made 
Christmas decorations, stars, snow flakes, canes, trees and 
chains, all to help decorate. I watched and helped. Also there 
were the beautiful May baskets with sweet williams and vio- 
lets. How we loved to knock on doors and run. My brother and 
I also enjoyed building and playing with wooden spools, the 
ones mother gave to us after using all the thread from them. 

I attended the Augusta grade school with some of the 
same boys and girls I went to Sunday school with. We all 
played together, enjoyed one another and had wonderful days 
at school. Miss Jennie Mead and Rosie Thompson were two of 
my teachers. Boys and girls played drop the handkerchief, 
dodge ball, fox and geese and tag. Everyone accepted everyone 
else. We sang together and had short parts in school and 
church programs. 

When school was over, it was straight home. Mother's 
first words would be, "Change your clothes while I slice some 
bread." (We always put on older clothing and in summer time, 
taking off our shoes and socks and going barefoot to save our 
shoes). While we were having our snack of homemade bread 
and preserves, jelly or maybe just oleo, mother would ask 
about our day at school. Of course at that age, we told all. The 
good smells coming from the pots and pans on the stove or in 


the oven told us the menu for the evening meal. 

Next came chore time. Some things had to be done right 
away; others could wait awhile. Setting the table for the eve- 
ning meal came later, while gathering corn cobs for the stove, 
feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs, getting a bucket of 
water or a bucket of coal — these had to be done right away. 
Each of us had something to do. Some evenings there was 
rinse water to scrub the porches and toilet. Some days there 
were clothes to take down and fold, to be put away, sometimes 
a few flat pieces to iron. My first pieces of ironing were my 
dad's work handkerchiefs. Some were red and some were blue. 
I remember the flat ironing board placed between the seats of 
two chairs, the hot iron, from the stove, resting on a lid from a 
syrup bucket. Mother did not like a scorched place on her iron- 
ing board cover. I really thought that was great when I could do 
a few pieces of ironing. My two older sisters did the dishes, but 
I helped put them away, and the pots and pans. 

When chores were done we could play until time for the 
evening meal. When those dishes were cleared, we sometimes 
got to play outside for awhile. Winter evenings we didn't go 

When mother called, we would go in and gather around 
the kitchen table. The oil-lamp was lit and set in the center of 
the table, so all could see. Homework was done under mother's 
supervision. She could read well and was an excellent speller. 
Perhaps later mother would read a story book or a Bible story 
to us, or we would play a game. 

Too soon it was time to get washed for bed. We always 
had a piece of bread and tomato preserves before going to bed. 
(Mother never left us to go to bed hungry.) Then it was off to 
dreamland, sunk down deep in our warm featherbed or, some- 
times in hot weather, on a pallet on the floor, usually in front of 
the door. Sleep came quickly and easily because I was so very 
tired but very happy. 

These are my cherished years. 


(Irace B. Schafer 

My dad grew up as a cripple, handicapped at least in 
appearance, although certainly not in capabilities. Born on 
November 11, 1863, in Clark County, Missouri, in a rural area 
known as Union, somewhere east of Kahoka, he moved with 
his family the next spring to Rock Creek Township, Hancock 

According to the family, when he was about ten months 
old, which probably would have been sometime in September, 
he was put down for a nap, and, when he awoke, my grand- 
mother is supposed to have said, "Him sick." That illness 
caused paralysis to his right arm, allowing the arm to grow in 
length, but not in girth or strength, and the hand was always in 
a perpetual curl. It is said that he dragged his right leg also, but 
since he was past 50 years of age when I was born, exercise evi- 
dently had strengthened it, so that I was never aware of any- 
thing particularly noticeable about his walking ability. 

Years into his adulthood, my dad was in Elvaston one 
time, and a local doctor hailed him to come into his office and 
to remove his shirt. Upon a cursory examination, the doctor 
said that my father's childhood illness had probably been 
infantile paralysis, just becoming recognized, at least in the 
rural areas. Whether it was about the time of the local 1912 
area epidemic, or if it was earlier in time, a bit of attention was 
being paid to the condition. 

Since farm kids were expected to do their share of work, I 
assume my father did what he could, or was allowed, but my 
grandfather was probably brutally frank that he was not going 
to support a "hopeless" cripple all his life. My dad was allowed 
to go to LaFayette country school at least as much as he 
wanted, and also boarded in Nauvoo one or two winters, so as 
to learn the German confirmation studies. When he was 17, he 
was taken to Ferris, only three miles from home, and put on 
the train to Quincy. He didn't know the way to Ferris — 


straight roads, and square corners! Yet he went to Quincy, and 
I assume found his own living arrangements, and stayed out 
the term as well as a second. 

Although I have no idea how my grandparents or even my 
dad knew anything about Quincy and what was offered there 
in advanced education, they selected Gem City Business Col- 
lege, run then by the father, and possibly a brother of Mr. 
Musselman, whose sons kept on running the school well into 
the twentieth century. And, although far-removed in concept 
from the school of 1880, and removed from a Hampshire street 
corner, it is still flourishing today. They even had lifetime cer- 
tificates for further study— but not transferable, as I realized 
when I was in high school. My dad learned his business sub- 
jects, and also wrote a rather distinguished looking left hand 

He was really adventurous, for he went to Illinois State 
Fair in Springfield in 1909 and purchased a car, a Zimmerman, 
not much more than a glorified buggy. I don't know who taught 
him to drive — maybe the zealous salesman did a few tricks — 
but my dad operated a car until in the early 40's, graduating to 
a series of Model T's after he was married and had two daugh- 
ters. He used to muse about a gear shift car, but always 
doubted if he would be able to shift lefthanded, so stayed with 
the Model T. That first old car was shipped home, and he got 
on another train and took off for the West. I imagine that piece 
of freight gave a few turns to the on-lookers at Ferris, or per- 
haps Elvaston, when it arrived. 

Eventually, my dad got into the hog-raising business and 
sometime after a disastrous springtime storm, when he lost a 
lot of baby pigs, he sat at his drawing board, and worked out a 
design for a farrowing house, balloon style roof, complete with 
automatic, individual waterers, feed storage, and a dozen or so 
farrowing pens, with outside runs, all of which could be 
removed for space and ease in cleaning. The floor was of short 
lengths of oak, set on end on a concrete base, then tarred over- 
all. It wasn't even, but it was smooth and water-tight. Then, in 

order to properly finish the fat porkers, he built a large finish- 
ing shed and later installed an automatic sprinkling system to 
cool down the hogs, for in those days, marketing weight was at 
least 350 pounds, and possibly 50 to 100 pounds more. 

He had his own livestock truck, a Model T of course, 
delivered only as running gears, and then built his cab and box 
and racks. He hauled the livestock to Elvaston, where it was 
shipped to East St. Louis, or occasionally to Chicago, which 
was farther. So noted were the hogs that when they were 
unloaded for feeding and watering enroute, yardmen were 
known to say, "Something about those being Behnke's hogs." 

Today there are all sorts of programs for the handi- 
capped or the disadvantaged, but a hundred odd years ago, you 
did it yourself, and certainly grandfather had no reason to fear 
the support costs for a "hopeless" cripple. 


Kenneth Maxwell Norcross 

Few of our present readers are old enough to describe 
what it sounded like when father shook the stove. 

Although it was a daily exercise, usually performed at six 
in the morning, we kids could never quite condition ourselves 
to the shock of being awakened from sound slumber by such a 
dreadful clamor. You could readily determine Dad's mood by 
the tempo with which he shook the old coal-burner; if he felt 
real cheerful and peppy, it sounded like a fast passenger train 
roaring through the house; if he was tired and sleepy, the 
sound resembled a slow freight puffing up a long grade. 

Shaking the stove doesn't mean grasping the stove near 
the top and rocking it back and forth. Shaking the stove means 


emptying the grate of the ashes which accumulate as coal is 
consumed in the firepot. This was usually accomplished by 
moving a lever back-and-forth sideways in the ashpit, which 
caused the ashes to sift through the grates while the lumps of 
coal remained in the firebox. It was necessary to keep the 
grates free of ashes so that the fire could obtain sufficient oxy- 
gen to support the combustion. 

Some stoves required the operator to insert a crank and 
move the handle up and down vertically. There were many var- 
iations in the method of shaking, depending on the particular 
manufacturer. Regardless of what ingenious device was 
employed for the purpose, an inconsiderate amount of noise 
resulted, and the process of shaking the stove always had the 
side-effect of shaking the family's progeny from their sweet 
repose. Edgar A. Guest, in his poem "When Father Shook the 
Stove," stated it quite aptly: "To human voice I never stirred. 
But deeper down I dove. Beneath the covers, when I heard, My 
Father Shake the Stove." 

In the spring, about the middle of May, Mom would begin 
to drop hints that the huge, nickle-plated parlor stove should 
be moved to its summer storage place. Maybe after a week or 
more of gentle persuasion. Father would manage to get the 
stove moved. He would then cover it with an old blanket, and 
there it would remain dormant until fall. 

How large the parlor, or living room as we call it nowa- 
days, seemed without the old coal-burner! How happy it made 
our mother to get the extra space! No matter how careful we 
were about bringing in the coal, or taking out the ashes. Mom 
was kept busy cleaning-up after us. 

Then near the end of September, as the days began to get 
shorter and shorter. Dad secretly began to dread the day when 
he'd have to reverse the spring process and return the old 
heater to the living room. 

With the help of some strong neighbors (which, of 
course, was reciprocated) the decorative four-foot square zinc 
mat was brought in first and placed on the floor about where 

fond recollection said it should be placed. Then the old stove 
was carried in and placed on the mat with the legs positioned 
according to the scratch marks left from many previous years' 
wear and tear. Next the stove pipes were meticulously cleaned 
of residue soot and perhaps given a coat of black polish. They 
were then carried into the house and precisely fitted between 
the stove and the outlet in the chimney. 

This sequence of events required great imagination on 
Dad's part, not to mention a frequent pause while he counted 
to ten! Finally, the whole Rube Goldberg conglomeration 
would be completely assembled and Dad would give it a victo- 
rious pat, happy the job was done. Sometimes he'd deliver too 
enthusiastic a pat, which would cause the smoke pipe to fall in 
a heap and he'd have to do it all over again. 

Mom would then give the old eye-sore a coat of black 
stove polish. The first time the stove was fired up, the polish 
would burn-off, filling the house with smoke and a terrible 
odor. It is amazing to reflect on what stupendous tasks we had 
to contend with to heat our homes in those good old days! Now 
about all we need do is turn up the thermostat. 

There were no controls, blowers, thermostats, humidifi- 
ers or automatic controls to adjust. Everything about the old 
stove was lOO^'c manually controlled. The stove pipe was fitted 
with a "damper" about at eye-level, which was partially closed 
at night after "banking" the fire. Closing the damper partially 
slowed down the chimney draft, which in turn retarded the 
rate of fuel combustion so that the fire would hopefully last 
until six a.m., when Dad would again shake the stove. 

The upper, front door, complete with mica windows to 
observe the fire, was kept closed until it was necessary to ad 
more fuel. The lower, front door, in the ashpit, was also nor- 
mally closed unless you wanted more draft for a hotter fire, or 
had to remove the ashes. 

The warmest spot in the room was right next to the stove. 
The temperature was much lower in a far corner of the room. 
We kids always got ready for bed standing close to the old 


heater. Our Saturday night baths were taken in a washtub 
placed near the stove. On real cold nights Mom would heat her 
sadiron on the stove for a few minutes, wrap it in a towel and 
place it at the foot of the bed to keep our feet warm. By morn- 
ing the whole house would be cold and we'd discover Jack 
Frost had paid us a visit during the night and etched all the 
windows with intricate designs. But soon, thanks to Dad, the 
room would begin to warm up and we could get out of bed and 

Nowadays we don't have to carry in coal or carry out 
ashes. By the mere twist of the thermostat dial we can com- 
mand air-conditioning, hot or cold. Dad no longer has to get up 
early to make the house comfy for the rest of the family. 
Mother no longer has to follow us around to clean up the soot 
and ashes we scattered on the floor in the good old days. The 
kids of this era have it quite luxurious, but they've missed a lot 
of old-fashioned family living — especially the days when 
Father shook the stove! 


Eua Baker Watson 

One of the earliest memories I have of my mother is of 
her standing before the dresser mirror, curling her hair. 

Mama used a curling iron heated in the chimney of the 
kerosene lamp. After it had hung there a few minutes, she 
would lift it out by its wooden handles, moisten the tip of her 
finger on her tongue, then give a quick touch to the iron. If it 
sizzled just right (and she was expert at knowing what was just 
right), it was hot enough to curl her hair. But horrible tales 
were told of too-hot irons that had singed locks right off the 

In my lifetime I've seen the curling iron come full circle, 
for it's now back after a generation's absence. 

The one I use would have delighted Mama. It is electric 
and thermostatically controlled to a heat safe for the hair. 
Even with this efficiency at my fingertips, my hair never looks 
as pretty to me when I finish curling it as Mama's did back 

She would curl all the hair around her face, then brush it 
back into a soft puff, sweep up all the rest of her hair to meet it 
in a neat coil high on the back of her head as was the fashion, 
circa 1918. She looked like a picture. 

But in the fashion world, the status quo is not counte- 
nanced. So in a few years along came bobbed hair. 

In Brownfield, deep in the hills of Southern Illinois, this 
startling craze infiltrated the women's minds. Conversations 
were filled with arguments about whether or not it was a sin. 
Even sermons were preached against it. Some women sighed 
regretfully (and a bit proudly) that their husbands wouldn't 
hear to their cutting their hair. Others, despite opposition, did 
it surreptitiously then kept their folly a secret from their hus- 
bands by pinning on "switches." Husbands had quite a lot of 
say-so about their wive's hair. 

Mama, after some weeks of mulling it over, decided to 
have hers cut. She didn't ask Papa's permission. She just told 
him. A sort of early Women's Libber was Mama. 

So one day when Uncle Hal, who was handy with the scis- 
sors, stopped by our house. Mama thought — well — maybe the 
time was right to take the daring step. 

When Uncle Hal had finished and I saw those long brown 
locks lying strewn about on the floor, I felt a tiny pang— in the 
midst of my applause for her determination to be stylish. But 
she really looked "bobbed." 

About that time Papa came in from the fields. He 
stopped in the doorway, looked at Mama for a minute with a 
kind of bewildered, stunned expression, then walked over and, 
giving her head a light, gentle touch, said, "Aw-w-w, Mom!" 


That small tinge ofl-wish-you-hadn't-done-it in his tone was 
the nearest he came to reproaching her for the mutilation of 
what everybody considered woman's crowning glory. 

Pretty soon Mama hauled out the curling iron again and 
learned to put ringlets in her short straight hair. My, she 
looked nice. And fashionable. People were always compli- 
menting her on her "natural curls." She was an artist. 

Mama wore no makeup at that time. We'd not heard of 
lipstick, eyeshadow, or rouge. (Oh, we'd heard of them — used, 
of course, only by show girls and fast women.) Mama was, 
however, a dedicated face powder-er. Just to take off the shine, 
you understand. She always bought "flesh color" powder and 
applied it with a chamois skin. Years later we discovered pow- 
der puffs and they were wonderful. 

Mama powdered her face everyday as routinely as she 
combed her hair. Not everyone did. Once as she was thus mak- 
ing herself presentable for the day, a cousin was visiting us. 
She asked, "Aunt Edna, where are you going?" Such primping 
wasn't usually bothered with when just staying home. 

Mama believed in keeping up appearance, but this is not 
to say she was vain. It was only a matter of self-respect. One 
occasion stands out in my mind that is a poignant illustration 
of this. Our family suffered a tragic loss when my only sister 
died. Mama was, as were we all, devastated. But as we were 
getting ready to go to the funeral, there stood Mama curling 
her hair. 

There she was, in the throes of the worst experience of 
her life, yet she was holding her head high, "keeping up 

appearances." It was a part of her creed. She owed it to herself 
and to her family to be presentable. To me then it was nothing 
unusual, but in retrospect, it seems so touching. 

My mother's adherence to these principles was not 
superficial posturing. Her attitude toward appearance typi- 
fied in a small way the general attitudes of those times — that 
propriety, simply behaving properly, come what may, was 

This may have contributed to unhealthy repression in 
some cases, but my view from today's vantage point is that 
with her it symbolized the high standards she lived by. 

Early conditioning leaves an indelible mark, and I find 
myself today often harking back to the time when this or that 
type of present day laxness would not have been tolerated. I 
realize it dates me to think that the pendulum of permissive- 
ness has swung too far. I can't help but believe that, with the 
anything-goes syndrome having reached epidemic propor- 
tions, we may have lost something of greater value than the 
freedom we've gained. It seems there should be, somewhere 
along the way, a middle road — a comfortably acceptable one — 
between the corseted past and the braless present. 

Today, Mama no longer uses the curling iron. She lives, 
at 99, a half-life existence in the nursing home, aware of little, 
able to do nothing for herself. I see to it that her hair is done 
regularly. She would have wanted that. Up until the time when 
her faculties deteriorated, a few years back, she was still con- 
cerned with her appearance. 

VU Old-time Arts and Culture 



Culture has been hard in the American Midwest. Grand- 
sons and granddaughters of immigrant pioneers know weH 
enough what they ought to be enjoying, and they know well 
enough what they really enjoy, but generally speaking they 
have been too hard pressed in cultivating new and untamed 
land, providing the essentials of food and shelter and roads, 
and developing effective social and political systems to devote 
too much time to reading, writing and performing fine art. 
Settling a country — wringing civilization from wilderness — 
takes many decades, perhaps even centuries, and western Illi- 
nois of the early 1900s was a land still very much on the edge. 
First food, shelter, physical necessities. Then church and 
school and the county seat. Time enough later for the arts. 
(And when that time finally arrived, it brought dust bowl and 
depression, and thus back to square one.) 

Moreover, good art, like corn and soybeans, grows organ- 
ically out of the soil, its environment. Seeds can be imported, 
but a rich and vital cultural tradition grows to suit its 
environment— it cannot be pasted on, dropped down, hustled 
in for a weekend from outside of a community. The subtleties 
of indigenous art also require a certain self-examination, 
which in turn requires a great deal of time ... a luxury not 
readily available to a culture in early stages of becoming. 

Rural people, pre-occupied with raising grain and barns 
as they have been, but mindful always of the "benefits of civili- 
zation," are often slightly apologetic about the sparsity of art 
and culture in the countryside. In fact, the land between two 
rivers did rather well for itself in the early years of the twenti- 
eth century. Here was no Boston or New York (not even a Chi- 
cago), but here was no wasteland either, even on high cultural 
terms. Violins were played (and made) in Prairie City; Sousa 
performed in Buffalo Prairie; Chautauqua brought its annual 
smorgasbord. On a more modest scale, the showboats, the cir- 
cus, the town band, church groups, ladies' groups, and school 

programs afforded numerous upijortunities for cultural devel- 
opment and artistic display. "You know," Leonard Anderson, 
an old Swedish carpenter said, "I got a pretty good musical 
education just singing in the church choir. And it was free!" 
Later, of course, vaudeville, the phonograph, and the radio 
brought the world to western Illinois. 

Culture in the town and country divides, usually, into 
three categories: what people think they ought to enjoy ("high 
culture"), what they genuinely enjoy even though they think 
they should not ("low culture"), and what they do not enjoy at 
all but what can, with a little imagination, be transformed 
from necessity into art ("folk art"). 

What art people thought they should appreciate, of 
course, was "high culture": Shakespeare plays and Schubert 
songs, the kind of artificially imported, pasted-on culture 
viciously parodied by Mark Twain in the famous "Royal None- 
such" scene in The Adventures of Hack Finn, and more gently 
by Sinclair Lewis in the pretensions of Carol Kennicott in 
Main Street. High culture was provided early in this century 
by Chautauqua, by the area's small colleges, and by legions of 
piano teachers, choral directors, and band leaders intent on 
bringing Schubert Liederto the citizens of Hanna City. In later 
years, such importation was made easier by the gramophone, 
the Victrola, radio, movies, and Public Television. Undeniably 
there was support within the community for high culture, 
especially among the blue bloods but also among working 
farmers. (Hamlin Garland recalls his pioneer father's venera- 
tion for Booth, the Shakespearean actor, among other ora- 
tors.) More attendance than supporters would care to admit, 
however, came from a sense of obligation; like Sunday ser- 
mons, Chautauqua speakers elicited a great deal of sleep. 

It is touching how embarrassed the rural community is, 
even today, to admit to enjoying certain forms of culture it 
considers "low." Early in this century, such entertainments 
included the circus, showboat performances, tent shows, med- 
icine shows, and— probably— local theatrical productions. 


Some of this embarrassment stems from a recognition, espe- 
cially in retrospect , that much of this entertainment was prim- 
itive, crude, and vulgar. Theater productions especially were 
crude, although turn-of-the-century American theater was 
not, even in the Fabled East, the stuff of greatness. Details of 
high school plays produced in Abingdon and other Illinois 
locals are not reassuring on this point. Nor are the details of 
circus side show performances, tent shows, and even showboat 
productions, although they were all very much in the Ameri- 
can grain and probably elicited more genuine enthusiasm 
than did loftier forms of art. 

Music, however, was enormously popular, relatively 
sophisticated, and relatively attuned to the small town cul- 
ture. Most towns had their iDand shells and bands to perform 
on them one hour each week (a tradition which persists in 
many small and not-so-small towns even today). The bands 
might also perform at commemorative and patriotic occasions 
like Flag Day, the 4th of July, and Armistice Day. The town 
band was participatory music, and a constant encouragement 
to youngsters to play a musical instrument. Probably there is 
more, and more omnipresent, music in rural America today 
than in the early years of this century, but there were certainly 
more performers then than now. 

Dancing in its many forms appealed to just about every- 
one. The appeal was as much social as it was artistic, and 
young gentlemen especially were shy, but the appeal of a barn 

dance, a square dance, or an evening at one of many downst ate 
ballrooms was powerful indeed. "I did not go to my first regu- 
lar dance until I was 19," recalls Robert Richards, but "then it 
was six nights a week." Square dancing was so popular that 
when an empty barn could not be found for a dance, young 
men constructed their own floor of tongue-and-grooved pine 
boards nailed down to a two-by-four base. 

Music was important enough even to those who could 
not play instruments that player pianos were popular . . . and 
then the "gramaphone," and then the Victrola, and then the 
radio. Significantly, favorite recorded music included classical 
opera arias, Sousa marches, and popular tunes. 

Some forms of art were very closely related to daily life in 
the country and small town. "Folk arts" like quilt-making, 
hand-sewing, paper folding, stenciling, utensil ornamenta- 
tion, and the construction of home-made toys have only 
recently achieved recognition as legitimate art forms. All were 
examples of the folk transforming necessity into pleasure, the 
stuff of their daily lives into the stuff of art. The resulting "cul- 
ture" was closely tied to the lives of those who made it, and in 
that respect, at least, newspaper doilies, tissue paper flowers, 
and hand-sewn French seams may have been more appropri- 
ate art than Ibsen plays and Schubert Lieder. 

David R. Pichaske 



Martha K. (iraham 

Today, when there is such a plethora of cultural activities 
and opportunities that one can hardly choose among them, it 
might seem that we ofthe early 1900's were woefully culturally 

Not so in Roseville and nearby towns. Many talented, 
accomplished people — artists, musicians and speakers — 
freely gave their services for programs of various organiza- 
tions and churches. 

Roseville had a community band composed of townspeo- 
ple and high school students, with Guy Arter as a motive 
power, that gave concerts in the band stand in the square all 
summer. Everyone came to town on Band Concert Night. 

Ella Kreig and her sister Jenny taught violin and piano. 
Their cousin Clarabelle Kreig came on Saturdays from 
Bushnell to teach piano. For years Maude Calvin Ditch had a 
large piano class, and Grace Gawthrope Peterson of 
Monmouth College Conservatory spent Saturdays in 
Roseville teaching piano. Theophilous Hess taught clarinet, 
and later RoUand, Homer and Austin Truitt taught trumpet, 
clarinet and trombone. Julia Anderson, Mary Dixson and 
Susannah McCracken, school teachers, taught voice. 

Hattie Lee and her daughter Edna held classes in paint- 
ing. Both were fine artists whose paintings hung in many 
Roseville community homes, and no doubt still do. I have four 
of them. 

For a whole week every summer, Redpath Chautauqua 
brought to Roseville a varied and outstanding program of 
music, lectures and plays. This was a week when out-of-town 
people came to visit Roseville friends and relatives, and all 
attended the performances. 

Even before the turn of the century almost every com- 
munity had its opera house, with the largest seating capacity 

in town, an adequate stage, a showcase for musicians, actors, 
lecturers, politicians and other bringers of culture to a com- 
munity. The huge white frame barn-like opera house, on the 
south side of West Pennsylvania Avenue in Roseville, was no 
longer in use as an opera house while I was growing up, but it 
was still in existence, being used as a livery stable. It was fasci- 
nating to hear tales of its heyday. 

Roseville Library must not be slighted as an important 
center of culture. Children spent hours browsing, reading and 
listening to story times, especially in summer when school was 
out. Aduhs made good use ofthe hbrary's service. The elderly 
who could not get out could depend on the librarian to send 
them books to their reading tastes. She had been librarian for 
years, and she knew everyone's preferences in reading mate- 

In my youth, Roseville people gravitated toward 
Monmouth and Galesburg, kept informed as to their cuhural 
events and often attended. Both Monmouth and Knox Col- 
leges had a yearly season ticket course featuring well known 
speakers, musicians and actors. Members of both college fac- 
ulties gave lectures, concerts and recitals and presented their 
talented students in performance. 

In Monmouth I heard, among others, Percy Grainger, 
world famous composer and pianist. Our own Howard 
Silberer, after his graduation from Knox Conservatory, came 
back from nationwide concertizing to play piano concerts in 
Knox's old Beecher Chapel and in his home community, 

Both colleges had fine stage facilities and brought well 
known traveling groups to present plays. I remember attend- 
ing the play Outward Bound at Knox, where the audience was 
in evening dress, and definitely not strangers to the fine points 
of such a cultural evening. 

The Galesburg theaters, the Orpheum and the Strand, 
every year hosted a several-weeks run of plays to which the 
surrounding communities flocked to buy season tickets. 


When I was very young I saw the famous John Phillip 
Sousa, The March King, direct his world-famous military 
band in Monmouth. Their tent was set up on the brick-paved 
street south of Warren County court house. At that time 
Sousa was old, white haired and white moustached, but I 
remember how, with the agility of a young man, he leaped up 
onto the stage, immaculate in white gold-braided uniform and 
white gloves, lifted his baton and brought music out of all 
those instruments to stir Monmouth and surrounding towns 
for weeks. People flocked to music stores to buy the volumes of 
his famous marches arranged for piano. It was typical, then, of 
listeners that, after musical performances, people strove to 
own the compositions played, and tried their own hand at 
playing them. 

In Roseville High School, as in surrounding towns, stu- 
dents trained in solo, ensemble and declamation competed in 
the bi-county meets and in the Military Tract contests. The 
whole community turned out for the preliminary contests 
which determined who would compete in the finals. 

High Schools had their community meetings, their Jun- 
ior and Senior plays, and proms with their formal class din- 
ners which showed that the school students were no strangers 
to proper social etiquette, itself a constituent of a communi- 
ty's culture. 

Almost every home in Roseville had its piano, the most 
popular musical instrument of the early 1900's, which was 
played by at least the younger members of the family, and 
around which family and friends gathered at parties and eve- 
nings at home. Player pianos were popular for fun and danc- 

Flat, square-shaped table model Victrolas were very 
popular, the earlier ones having a long flared horn from which 
issued the music from the record, picked up by a long sharp 
needle. The mechanism had to be wound by hand and would 
run down at inconvenient moments. These instruments were 
advertised in store windows with a plaster model of a large 

black-and-white short-haired dog sitting near the trumpet, 
one ear cocked listening to "his master's voice." 

Later cabinet Victrolas were popular, all the mechanism 
enclosed, and with a storage place below for records. Records 
were very thick and heavy, flat or cylindrical in shape. Manual 
winding was still necessary. The first record I ever heard on a 
cabinet model Victrola was Dardanella played by an orches- 

Soon radios found their way into every parlor, bringing a 
variety of music, as well as news and other cultural enlighten- 
ment from the outside world. 

These conveyances of culture were more attentively lis- 
tened to than are the hi-fi, radio and TV of today that people 
seem to habitually turn on as soon as they get up in the morn- 
ing and return home in the evening. People seem prone to let 
them run as a background for all kinds of activities that, in my 
youth, were best done in quiet — homework, reading, conversa- 
tion, eating, or just thinking and planning. 

In the 1930's, Depression years, people valued cultural 
activities highly, often spending more money and time than 
they could afford to support and attend such events. In the 
absence of affordable, planned cultural offerings, people 
made their own. They read books and newspapers, learned to 
appreciate and make their own art and music through lessons 
and study or their own self-teaching, took correspondence 
courses, quilted, embroidered and sewed creatively often to 
their own design. They told and listened to tales of their family 
and community history. 

These are the foundation stones of culture. People in 
small communities like Roseville possessed these foundation 
stones. Families and communities had not lost their cultural 
roots, and, as time went on, they had increasing opportunity to 
enjoy, and appreciate and participate in cultural activities 
brought within their reach. 

Even during the Depression years of the 1930s people did 
not feel culturally deprived. In the small communities every 


family was working hard and thinking hard to make a bare Hv- 
ing. Worry and fear were their constant companions. But the 
bed-rock culture was still there, a source of pleasure and 
release from the unavoidable anxieties of the Depression 


Louise Parker Simms 

During the early part of this century and into the 1920's 
and even the 19.30's entertainment and "shows" were vastly 
different from what they are today. 

People in smaller towns enjoyed medicine shows, the 
organ grinder and his monkey, gypsy dancers, street carnivals 
as well as side shows at county fairs, home talent shows, 
vaudeville, tent shows, and school class plays. 

The medicine shows are probably best remembered by 
the way they are depicted in old western movies. Usually the 
medicine man came to town in his enclosed wagon filled with 
"elixirs" which were supposed to cure almost anything from a 
hangnail to lumbago. 

After a short performance by someone such as a magi- 
cian, a juggler, or ventriloquist, the man would open his wagon 
and try to sell the magic portion to those who had gathered to 
see the free entertainment. 

The organ grinder and his monkey were just that — a 
man and his pet monkey, needing little else except perhaps a 
tin cup which the monkey on a leash passed through the crowd 
to collect coins after he had entertained. The performance was 
usually a dance to music produced by the organ grinder, who 
turned the handle on the box-like instrument he carried on a 
strap around his neck. My father was the village blacksmith 
with his shop a half block east of the Main Street business dis- 
trict. If there was an organ grinder and his monkey in the busi- 
ness district of our town, I usually knew about it. 

When gypsies made a stop in Abingdon, they were usu- 
ally traveling by horse-drawn wagons, much like the covered 
wagons seen in old time western movies. They were usually 
dressed in colorful clothing with a bright colored cloth tied in 
gypsy-fashion around their head. The women wore full skirts, 
lots of costume jewelry, and carried a tambourine. The gypsies 
would dance to the beat of the tambourines, then pass the 
inverted tambourine around the circle of spectators for a mon- 
etary donation. They also asked to tell your fortune — for a fee, 
of course. 

Gypsies roamed from town to town and lived in their 
wagons, setting up camp at some rural location near a town. 
Children were usually warned by their parents to avoid gypsies 
because they were told they had a reputation for stealing and 
also for kidnapping children. These tales may or may not have 
been true, but they kept many children at home when gypsies 
were camped nearby. 

My childhood home was at 401 East Martin Street in 
Abingdon, less than two blocks from the eastern edge of our 
town. There was a favorite gypsy camping ground just outside 
the east city limits. You can be sure I was not allowed outside 
my yard at home when gypsies were camping nearby. 

Home talent shows were popular in Abingdon in the 
1920's. A local sponsoring organization would hire a director 
who traveled from town to town directing, producing, and pro- 
viding costumes for a play or a musical show complete with 
chorus line. The local American Legion sponsored many of 
these annual productions in return for a percentage of the 
ticket sales. 

First there was a call for local performers, providing an 
opportunity for local hams (myself included) who could pass 
the auditions. Performances were usually held during the win- 
ter in the Opera House located in the first block of East Mar- 
tin Street on the north side behind the hotel. 

Rehearsals were held evenings and weekends. Excite- 
ment mounted as the time for dress rehearsal approached 


and, trunks of costumes arrived from New York, Chicago, or 
wherever the director's home base was. To the many teenage 
actors involved, it would seem only logical that this home base 
was a big city. 

Where the costumes came from was not nearly as impor- 
tant to the cast as the fact that they (hopefully) fit the person 
playing the part. Many last minute alterations were often nec- 

Show night finally arrived, and ready or not, the show 
went on, in spite of all the butterflies in many of the perform- 
ers' stomachs. The show provided the topic for conversations 
over a Coke or ice cream soda at the corner drug store or the ice 
cream parlor. All of us looked forward with happy anticipation 
to show time next year. 

During the summer, tent shows provided entertainment 
in a tent erected by a traveling show troupe. In Abingdon the 
tent show was usually on the west side of the 100 block of 
South Harshbarger Street next to the Chicago, Burlington, 
and Quincy (now Burlington Northern) Railroad tracks. 

A different play was given each night for a week, and 
those who could afford it attended every night. There was 
always an intermission about half way through the show, when 
members of the show troupe would walk around in the audi- 
ence selling boxes of taffy candy kisses individually wrapped. 
Each box contained a prize, the counterpart of prizes found in 
boxes of Crackerjack. Being able to buy a box of candy with a 
prize in it became as important to the children as being able to 
buy a ticket to the show. 

On hot summer nights the sides of the tent would be 
rolled up during intermission, hopefully to allow summer 
breezes to cool the spectators as well as the performers. The 
sides were never rolled up before intermission, for this might 
allow someone to slip in and see the performance without pay- 
ing. The show troupe lived in smaller tents pitched behind the 
big tent. 

High school class plays afforded an opportunity for stu- 

dents to learn about the art of performing. I remember vividly 
the part I played in our junior class play in the late 192()'s. It 
was Seventeen, written by Booth Tarkington. 

One scene called for Lola (me) to come on stage carrying 
a small poodle dog. The reason for the dog and the dialogue 
during the scene somehow escapes me, but I recall that I was 
"dressed up" in a fancy dress made of lace. We encountered a 
problem during dress rehearsal when the dog's toenails 
became entangled in the lace. We solved that problem by fast- 
ening a piece of white cloth around each of the dog's paws in a 
manner resembling bandages. The toenails did not become 
entangled in my dress on the night of the performance, but as I 
remember it now it must have looked somewhat stupid. I am 
sure there must have been a better way, but at the time we 
couldn't think of it. 

Seventeen was a favorite with all of the cast. In fact we 
had so much fun that one cast member wanted to take the 
show on the road and perform the same play in several small 
towns in the area. Well, teenagers often daydream — both then 
and now. 


Martha K. Graham 

To most Prairie City people in the early 1900's, Hes 
Phillips was just the only barber in town. Prairie City was so 
small that the business district comprised no more than one 
block on each side of the main street through town. 

Hes Phillips (his given name was Heslip) was tall, dark 
haired and very thin, with an ascetic look about him. He was a 
mild mannered man, serious, extremely quiet and reserved. 
He had none of the banter, gossip and small talk one thinks of 
as being a feature of the old-time barbershop where everyone 
knew everyone else. 


His shop was on the south side of the street about mid- 
way of the block, near the post office. Walking past, glancing 
in the big oblong-paned window, one noticed that the shop was 
often empty, not even the barber in sight. 

Not many people knew or cared what Hes Phillips was 
doing when he wasn't barbering. I. too, might never have 
known except that, casting about for a likely topic of conversa- 
tion to break the silence during my haircut, I remembered that 
he sometimes played violin accompaniments to the Presbyter- 
ian Sunday School songs with Mrs. Gratia Bone or Miss Sade 
Wilson at the piano. I timidly mentioned having heard him 
play, and that I, too, enjoyed playing the violin. 

That statement inspired more conversation than I ever 
expected to hear from Hes Phillips. I was amazed to learn that 
he had never had a formal music lesson in his life, yet he 
played a wooden flute, trumpet and violin by ear and by note. 
And he preferred to play classical music. He especially liked 
string instruments, and in the back room of his barbershop he 
made violins in his spare time. 

The barbershop, it seemed, was his way of keeping food 
on the table for his wife, Nora, those few of their seven chil- 
dren who remained at home and their two grandchildren. 
Every spare minute he was in the back room surrounded by his 
violins in various stages of completion. That was where he did 
his real work and lived his real life. Since I seemed interested 
in violins, he showed me his workshop. 

The back room had an old pot-bellied stove on which sat 
his glue pot suspended in a big can of warm water to keep the 
glue from hardening. Pieces of wood, tools, brushes, cans of 
varnish, folded newspapers and old rags lay about, but not in 
great disorder. Most of the tools he worked with seemed to 
have been made by himself. He had made a half-size violin for 
his granddaughter, Rose Marie. 

As he handled his finished and unfinished violins, this 
quiet barber became a different person. The morose diffi- 
dence fell away, and I saw Hes Phillips as few people, outside 

his tamily, must have ever known he could be. He simply loved 
everything about violins — the feel of them, the sound of them, 
playing them and making them. 

In the 1920's the violin playing at Sunday School and 
church was the extent of his performance. But in his younger 
days he played trumpet in the old Prairie City Brass Band, of 
which he was also leader. This band traveled to surrounding 
ct)mmunities and earned about .$400 a year, which they spent 
on music and whatever else would benefit the band. 

In earlier years he had been the motive power for the 
organization of various band and orchestral groups in the 
Prairie City community. It was Prairie City's loss that, as he 
grew older, he became more withdrawn, and no longer let his 
musical light shine for everyone to see. 

His barbershop burned down, along with the other 
places of business on that side of the street. His son, Leo, res- 
cued three of the violins. They are in his family today. Hes 
moved his shop across the street and continued barbering. 

In 1942 we left Prairie City, moving to Macomb, where 
my husband, Burdette Graham, had been called to open the 
first agriculture department at Macomb High School. In our 
new environment we lost contact with our barber-fiddle 
maker friend. Hes Phillips died in 194.5 at age 84, after 55 years 
as a barber. He had been Prairie City's oldest businessman. 
But he didn't disappear from our lives. 

About 1956, my husband amazed our three children and 
me by bringing home a full-size harp he had found at the estate 
sale of A. E. Dowell, on North McArthur Street. Only one 
other person bid on this unusual instrument, and it fell to 
Burdette for $9.00. The harp was old, with an old-style pedal 
mechanism, but it was strung up and playable. We set it up in 
our living room and tried playing piano music on it. My piano 
students were enchanted. For the only time in their lives they 
got to try playing a harp. On cleaning the discolored metal 
frame, at the top we uncovered a delicate, elegantly engraved 


1898 H. Phillips 

About fifteen years later, looking through a box of old 
pictures at the home of Mrs. Ronald (Dude) Mead of Prairie 
City, I found a picture of a small orchestra and recognized Hes 
Phillips as a young man, sitting up very straight and hand- 
some beside his harp — our harp. The distinctive design was 

Marie Mead knew t hat this musical group was called The 
Phillips Harp Orchestra, made up of the harp and two violins, 
and that Hes Phillips had made the harp. The musicians were 
R. H. Cox, F. W. King and H. Phillips. The Harp Orchestra 
played for weddings and dances and other social events. They 
sometimes played in theaters (Macomb's Illinois Theater for 
one) where they furnished music for the silent movies of the 
time. That was an exacting performance, for, ideally, the 
music had to be appropriate to the scene on the screen, and 
that could change in a flash from calm to exciting and back 
again countless times during a movie. Most of the time they 
gave up trying to follow the action and just played. Later a 
pianist was added to the group. She was Esther Dodsworth, 
well known Macomb musician. 

In the later 1970's Hes Phillips' grandchildren. Rose 
Marie (Palm) of Bushnell and Jack Phillips, both of whom I 
had the pleasure of teaching in elementary school, came to our 
house to see the harp their grandfather had made. They had 
always known of its existence, but had only recently discov- 
ered that we owned it. 

Jack and his lovely wife, from Alaska, where he was 
employed in Alaskan oil operations, were in Illinois for a visit 
with relatives. Jack, tall and dark-haired and looking very like 
the young Hes Phillips in the Harp Orchestra picture, pleaded 
with us to sell the harp to him. He would transport it to Alaska 
in his station wagon, recondition it with the help of his sons, 
and give it the honored place in his home that it deserved as 
the family heirloom it really was. 

Much as we loved the harp and hated to part with it, we 
realized its place was with some member of the Phillips family. 
So the beautifully designed harp Hes Phillips had made in 
1898, very probably in the back room of his barbershop, is now 
in Alaska with the Jack Phillips family. However, because of 
certain regulations, the harp could not be transported in the 
station wagon. Jack supervised its crating and saw the instru- 
ment started on its way. In Alaska he had to pay .$500 freight 
charges to redeem his harp. 

Hes Phillips would have been overjoyed that his 1898 
harp was back in the Phillips family. On the afternoon of their 
visit, as we took final snapshots of the harp and its new own- 
ers, the Phillips grandchildren spoke of their grandfather with 
the nostalgia of old times remembered. They regretted not 
having known and understood their grandfather better. They 
remembered that he used to play them to sleep with Humo- 
resque on his violin. They spoke of the back room where he 
made violins. Sometimes they had helped by handing him 
things, holding pieces of wood or the glue pot for him while he 
worked. Rose Marie remembered exactly how his hands 
looked working on his violins. But while he was living they 
never realized he was doing an\^hing special. To them he was 
just grandpa, a very quiet man, puttering around in the back 
room when there was no customer in the barbershop. 

But when I first knew Hes Phillips I was aware of him as 
someone unusually different, unique and special. He was a 
natural musician and an inventive craftsman. He was an 
extremely vulnerable dreamer and a fiddle-maker, hiding his 
dreams and his violins safely behind the facade of his barber- 

I feel very fortunate to have known Hes Phillips. In my 
book of poems published in 1942 by the Prairie City press of 
James A. Decker, this tribute to Hes Phillips has a page all its 



Fiddle- maker, that is what I am, 
Whatever else I may have seemed to be, 
Fiddle-maker, and singer of fiddle-song. 
Whatever else 1 do, these things 1 love: 
The sound of the bow across a set of strings, 
The feel of a fiddle shaping in my hands. 


Luis Harry Mellen 

The year was 1910. The place the village of San Jose, Illi- 
nois, and Papa was a self-educated, ordained pastor of the 
Methodist Episcopal Church. Also, and more important to 
me, he was Rev. Frank M. Harry and My Father. 

Papa was also a self-taught musician and a lover of 
music, who possessed a powerful baritone voice which he 
rejoiced in raising in praise of the Lord. 

San Jose was a miniscule town in Central Illinois, set in 
the rich black soil of Logan County. The town itself had little 
to offer, but it had two churches, both Methodist. One was the 
English Methodist Church and the other smaller one was the 
German Methodist Church. My father was pastor of the 
English-speaking church. 

The edifice was the usual white frame building, with the 
steeple and bell-tower standing in one of the few elevations in 
this prairie town. The parsonage was equally imposing, spa- 
cious and two-stories, situated back of the church on the hill. 

Certainly, San Jose was a nice "charge" to be assigned to 
by an aspiring preacher, the assignment, or church, to which 
the Central Illinois Conference sent its ministers was called 
"charge" — for that it was, a charge to look over the flock. The 

rich farmers made up the "flock," as San Jose was the nearest 
trading point and place of worship if they had one. And rich 
farmers they were. In 1910 a man was rich who owned eighty or 
even forty acres of land: no income tax, no fertilizer bill, no 
high gasoline bill, a low labor bill, or none at all if he was lucky 
enough to have sons, or a live-in hired man if needed. Cer- 
tainly, San Jose was a nice charge to have. 

But Papa was not satisfied. Oh, he was paid his meager 
salary on time, he had a nice house for his family, and the 
membership was fairly regular in attendance, especially the 
women. But Papa wanted a pipe organ so its tones could ring 
out the open doors and windows for the glory of his Lord. 

Therefore, he set his boundless energy to the task of get- 
ting such a marvellous possession for his church. The cost — 
which I have no way of knowing — was probably around five or 
six hundred dollars, and must have seemed like an enormous 
amount to those Illinoians in 1910. 

There were, I am sure, endless meetings, lists drawn up, 
calls made, more meetings and calls. Doubtless there was 
dissention — "We do not need an organ. We have a piano. Why 
get an organ?" Also "Who wants an organ? And who will play 
it?" To which I can guess Papa would reply, "I want an organ 
and I have someone to play." 

So his campaign began. He must have had some support- 
ers, for the work went on. Papa probably took Old Scott, the 
family mare, out on calls all through the area to ask for contri- 
butions, and to visit a lot of farmers who never came to church. 
They left the church-going to their wives, who would not dare 
make even the smallest of pledges. 

One on whom Papa called was Mr. Adolph Weisenberger, 
a staunch supporter of the German Methodist Church but a 
friend to Papa. So Papa asked him for a contribution. To his 
surprise, Mr. Weisenberger replied, "Ya, I giff you money. Vat 
is the most anyone giff in your church? I giff as much as any- 
one in your church giff." 

Papa must have driven home on wings, so anxious to tell 


Mamma the news, and to set about getting someone to 
increase their pledge. But no! Not one of the good Methodists 
would give more than twenty-five dollars. So Papa's hope of 
having two pledges of fifty or maybe seventy-five dollars were 
dashed to the ground. Poor Papa! Mr. Weisenberger was not so 
generous either. He just did not want anyone to give more than 
he did. 

The list of pledges must have grown, for at last there were 
enough to insure the purchase of Papa's organ and it was 
ordered and eventually installed in the white church on the 

When Papa told the scoffers he had a player he was not 
lying — which he would never have done under any circum- 
stances. The player was his daughter Helen, my older 14-year- 
old sister. 

Helen was also a born musician who practically taught 
herself to play the piano. In fact, she played for Sunday School 
occasionally. To learn to play the pipe organ Helen went every 
Saturday to the neighboring town of Delavan for lessons. I do 
not know whether Papa or the church paid the bill. How I 
envied Helen! To go all alone on the interurban! 

When the organ was installed Helen could practice at the 
church right next to our house. No more trips to Delavan. But 
there was a difficulty. The instrument had to be pumped. That 
was done by pumping the long handle bar which extended 
back of the organ through the wall into the Sunday School 
room. A slightly mentally handicapped boy was hired to pump 
on Sunday, but not for Helen to practice. That little duty fell 
to Helen's two little sisters, Ruth and Lois. I recall we did a fair 
amount of giggling and probably protesting as Helen on some 
occasions had to call Mamma to "straighten us out." 

At last the great day of dedication came. It was one of 
those beautiful Sunday mornings in a usually quiet little town. 
Papa arrayed himself as usual in his Prince Albert black coat, 
gray trousers and shiny black shoes. Helen had a new dress 
and Ruth and Lois wore their all-over embroiderv white 

dresses with pink and blue ribbons. I do not remember what 
Mamma wore. 

We all knew the organ was not quite paid for. But surely, 
when the congregation heard and saw Papa's Organ they 
would pledge a little more. The Presiding Elder was to preach 
the sermon. (San Jose was too small to rate a Bishop.) 

The church bell pealed out over the town, the congrega- 
tion quieted down and Helen took her place at the organ and 
started to play. Not a sound came forth. Papa— who could rise 
to any occasion — motioned Helen to go to the piano and play 
the hymn to be sung. 

He went through the Sunday School room at the rear, 
while Mamma went out the front door. Soon Mamma beck- 
oned to Ruth and me. We followed her to the back and learned 
the difficulty. The pumping boy was not there. In the excite- 
ment of the morning no one had missed him. Two little girls — 
the preacher's kids— were pressed into service and manfully 
"manned the pump." The first hymn was finished, Papa 
announced the second one as Helen again took her place at the 
organ, which gave forth its rich sonorous tones. They might 
have been a little wheezy at first until the pumpers got the 

Papa had found the janitor who took over the pumping 
for the rest of the service. Two little girls in white embroidered 
dresses slightly rumpled, and with pin and blue hair ribbons 
slightly askew took their usual places in the front pew. Papa 
took his place next to the Presiding Elder, and the service con- 
tinued. Papa's rich baritone voice never sounded better. 

The mystery of the missing pumping boy was not solved 
until later. Papa was too busy playing host to the Presiding 
Elder, Mamma was too busy getting dinner for him, and the 
girls too proud of themselves to care. The Church Board was 
busy counting the contents of the collection baskets and found 
there was enough cash and pledges to make up the deficit. The 
pipe organ could be paid for. Glory Be! 

Late that Sunday Papa learned the story from a well- 


wisher but not a church-goer. Even in small towns in the early 
1900's there were malicious people who did not like "that 
Methodist Preacher." They were smart enough to know the 
organ had to be pumped and that addle-pated Burney Clark 
was to be the pumper. So they bribed him to stay away and 
even took him fishing that Sunday morning. 

Papa, the Christian man he was, vented his temper on no 
one. He had his organ, the service was gratifying, and he was 
proud of his family. "God was in the Heavens and all right was 
the world." 

I am now eighty-years old, the last living member of the 
family that lived so long ago in the parsonage on the hill in San 
Jose, Illinois. No opportunity has come to go back. 

Maybe it is just as well. I may not want to know what is 
now on that hill where once stood the spacious white house. 
the tall white church with its steeple, bell-tower and with 
Papa's Pipe Organ. 


Dorothy B. Koelling 

It happened the other day when I was arranging some old 
snapshots. There was this picture of a very large elephant and 
I, a child, was on his back! Like Alice, I plunged into another 
time, another place. It was in the twenties and the bills of 
Barnum and Bailey Circus had been posted throughout 
Adams County and beyond to announce the coming of the Big 
Top. The Circus would perform at the County Fairgrounds at 
Baldwin Park in Quincy. I felt a special part of all the excite- 
ment because Daddy's farm adjoined the Park area and we 
would spend most of a memorable day there. 

It was the practice for some early rising residents to go to 
Front Street in Quincy where the circus people would unload 
animals, equipment, and rides from the railroad cars. This 

activity at about 4 a.m. was more fascinating for many than 
the actual performance later. It didn't matter to us wide-eyed 
youngsters that we were getting only half of the show prom- 
ised by the posters. It was customary for the huge company to 
split and only a part unloaded at Quincy while the rest went 
on, possibly to Burlington, Iowa. 

However, the attraction for Daddy was to be at the park 
when the circus folk arrived to set up for the day. The first tent 
that went up was the cook tent, and the smells of bacon and 
coffee permeated the air long before the entire company 
arrived. Other tents were soon raised, often with the help of 
elephants, trained to wield a heavy mallet on the stakes that 
held the guys to steady the hfting. When elephants weren't 
used for this particular job, a small crew of men would hammer 
rhythmically in turn on each stake, a fascinating activity to 
watch. These men, the roustabouts, were a motley crew of 
transients, who had "circus blood in their veins" and lived a 
vicarious life in following the Big Top wherever it went. 

Perhaps we were intruding as we walked about the 
grounds at this early hour, but the circus people made us feel 
welcome by smiling and saying a few words sometimes. We felt 
we were in a truly cosmopolitan atmosphere as we recognized 
many of the circus folk to be foreigners whose talents classi- 
fied them as professionals and whose desires included a love of 

Yes, we were intruding into their personal lives. We saw 
their laundry hung on ropes stretched in any available space. 
We smelled straw, animals, food, humanity, all relative to the 
circus. We saw their camaraderie among themselves, some 
joking, some playfully quarreling (occasionally, not playfully), 
some using words which I'm sure my Mother did not know 
that I heard. But, young as I was, I realized that "circus folk" 
lived a different way of life than I, and for that reason it was all 
right for them to talk so. 

There was a single purpose in the busy activity we saw in 
the early morning. It was to prepare for the 11 a.m. 


through town. This would be a rousing hello to the townsfolk 
and an encouragement to come to the show later. The parade 
started at the park and wound through the city streets, a dis- 
tance of about six miles. (The parade was discontinued in later 
years because it was presented usually on a Sunday morning, 
the day of the show, which made it objectionable to some of the 

It seemed everyone was out to see the parade, little ones 
perched on their fathers' shoulders, older ones running along- 
side the colorful wagons that were carrying the wild animals. I 
wondered what would happen if those animals got out. The 
horses drawing the wagons wore brightly polished harnesses. 
They seemed proud of their part in the parade as they high- 
stepped along with the plumes on their heads seeming to nod 
in time. The performers, dressed in their garishly colored per- 
forming costumes, rode on horses or in decorated carriages. 
They were friendly and waved and threw candy to us. Heavily 
painted clowns danced along with boundless energy, occasion- 
ally coming up to a spectator to tweak his nose or to pull his 
ear. Over all the hubbub we heard the circus music played on a 
calliope. At times the music would stop abruptly. That was 
when the calliope ran out of steam. 

After the parade there was time to return to the circus 
grounds for a hot dog and red cream soda, maybe even pink 
cotton candy. What fun it was to watch them make that candy 
with the syrupy mixture twisting on the turning blades of the 
machine. I wondered why it was always pink. 

We went then into a large tent called the Side Show 
where individual presentations were shown. The barker out- 
side with huge larger-than-life pictures on worn canvas flap- 
ping behind him had called us in, telling us we would see the 
dog with two heads, the fat lady, the skinny man, the magician, 
the sword-swallower, the fire-eater, the woman sawed in half. 
We expected all these and others because they were always in 
the Side Show. 

To me, a puppet show called Punch and Judy was most 

attractive, perhaps because the spieler at each performance 
gave a gadget to a child standing near. This gadget would per- 
mit the user to "throw his voice" or be a ventriloquist. How I 
wanted one of those. I always stood very close to his platform, 
but the spieler never saw me. 

It was in this Side Show that it is said P.T. Barnum, in an 
effort to encourage people to move along, erected a sign 
"egress" over a doorway leading outward. Most of the folks, 
thinking "egress" was another animal to be viewed soon found 
themselves outside. (Wasn't it Barnum who said, "There's a 
fool born every minute"?) 

From the Side Show tent we entered the Big Top where 
the main show was given twice in the afternoon and twice in 
the evening. The entranceway contained the caged animals 
that would perform in the special acts. I remember feeling 
sorry for them as they twisted and growled in their too small 
confinement. The Band was already playing its peppy 
marches in tones strident and brassy, yet fitting. Next we 
bought some Cracker Jacks. The prize in that box was worth 
the price of the circus ticket to me. We found seats which were 
on plain hard boards, but we didn't mind. We tried to choose a 
spot from which we could watch all three rings where perfor- 
mances were given simultaneously. We didn't want to miss a 

It was difficult, however, to see all the daring feats of the 
Wallenda family, the high-wire artists, the admirable courage 
of Mabel Stack who worked with trained tigers, of Clyde 
Beatty, also a trainer of wild animals, and others. It was fun to 
watch the antics of the clowns, Emmett Kelly among them. A 
part of the clowns' report oire was always the noisy wreck of a 
car that had occasional explosions, caught fire, and amidst the 
pseudo-concerns of the clowns was saved by a miniature fire- 
engine. And the clowns in their grotesque, mismatched garb, 
extravagant wigs, and carrying tiny parasols moved on to 
repeat the hilarious performance in another spot. 

After the Show in the Big Tent we wandered around in a 


carnival area which always accompanied the circus. The rides 
tested our bravery, but we enjoyed them all — the Ferris Wheel, 
the Merry-Go-Round, the Whip, and maybe a sort of flying 
bucket ride that was very scary. 

Various attractions here, such as games of skill, weight 
guessing, hammering a scale hard enough to ring a bell— all 
these kept people in the park longer, of course, and more 
money would pour into the circus coffers. It was at this time we 
saw the elephant that was used for the snapshots taken with 
children on his back. Daddy convinced me that it would be a 
terrific souvenir. So, with my eyes closed and showing more 
courage than I felt, I found myself hoisted to the back of the 
rough-skinned pachyderm. It pleased Daddy and has provided 
me this nostalgic trip back to my childhood. 


Junetta Findlay 

I have lived my entire 65+ years in Rock Island. One of 
my earliest memories is of the mid and late 19'20's, and of the 
Spencer Square Park. It was formerly Union Square, chang- 
ing to Spencer Square in 1885. It was a block square park at 
the edge of the downtown area of the city between 19th and 
20th streets and 2nd and 3rd Avenue. There were wide — 
possibly six foot — sidewalks laid diagonally from the north- 
west to the southeast and from the northeast to the southwest 
corners. There were smaller walks within the park. The large 
walks were bordered with flowers, round flower beds were set 
amidst the grounds of well kept grass. Where the two wide 
sidewalks crossed stood a huge cement planter kept full of 
blooming flowers in season, and it looked tall and pretty in the 
winter filled with snow and ice hanging from the rim. On the 
east side of the center walk a little more than halfway from the 
north edge of the park was a small pond with a tall fountain in 

the middle of it. I can remember gold fish in it. There was a low 
cement wall around the pond that I sat on and watched the 
fish darting around in the water. The benches around this 
pond were of black iron with rounded wrought-iron backs. 
Other regular park benches were placed around in the park. A 
little closer to the Third Avenue side was a granite statue of 
Chief Blackhawk. 

On the west side of the walk was a band stand. It was 
round, with steps going up to where the bands would sit. Going 
up the center of the wide steps was a black iron handrail. 
Underneath the stand and to the rear were the ladies" and 
mens' restrooms. 

In the summer on Sunday evenings my gentle dad would 
say, "Let's go; the music will be playing." I knew it would be 
concert evening and it would be my cue to wash my hands and 
face and brush my hair. I would take the big, calloused hand 
and walk the one and a half blocks to the Spencer Square and 
the Band Concert. We were always early and got a bench 
approximately the same spot each time. There was time to sit 
a while. My Dad could relax. I'm sure I fidgeted, but he never 
said anything about it. There were other children in the fam- 
ily, and he must have known it was important for me to have 
this time just with him, and I would be excited. The music 
always started with "The Star Spangled Banner." I would 
expect and get a tug at the back of my dress, which meant to 
stand. My Dad would stand straight, tall and proud in his blue 
bib overalls and blue shirt. A lot of marching music played and 
song arrangements of he popular music were played. There 
was toe-tapping and humming along with some of the music. 
The sight will remain with me forever: early summer evening 
with people occupying every bench, the little low wall around 
the pond, the steps going up to the band, with some people sit- 
ting on the grass, the instruments moving and shining in the 
hands of the musicians. The clapping of hands and the shouts 
of approval with "MORE! MORE!" The music lasted about an 
hour, and it was always over too soon for me. Then everyone 


would stand and clap their hands and everyone would be smil- 
ing. A standing ovation. I didn't know what it meant then, but 
I appreciate it now. It was sad to see the park give way to make 
room for a post office. The post office is important, but in my 
history it doesn't compare with the Spencer Square with the 
beauty and the Band Concerts. 


Eleanor H. Bussell 

Barn raisings and square dancing were popular social 
events across the Illinois prairies during the 1930s. Both were 
enjoyed in most of the rural communities throughout the mid- 
western states. After the era of building spacious barns that 
would accommodate both horses and the hay to feed them 
ended, the fun of square dancing continued on wooden plat- 
forms and open air stages at county fairs. 

But it was in the high raftered hayloft of a newly built 
barn just before the first crop of clover or alfalfa was due for 
harvesting and placing in the mow where the exuberant 
square dancing began its happy times. 

In my own late teens, in the early 1930's, I had the best of 
good times at the country square dancing parties. I was born 
and grew up on an Illinois farm in Marshall County. I belonged 
to two 4-H clubs, both as a member and later as a leader. Then 
I advanced to the Rural Youth that was county-wide in its 
membership. Square dancing was the fad in those years and 
Rural Youth meetings almost always closed the evening ses- 
sions with a couple or three squares before adjourning and 
getting into the Chevy coupe, heading for home. 

It was, however, at the barn dances that we really had 
plenty of room to maneuver and to swing our partners on the 
corner in harmony with the caller's instructions. One of the 

several barn dances that I vividly recall happened in the sum- 
mer of 1933. 

A prominent farmer located several miles northwest of 
our farm decided to celebrate the completion of his new barn 
with a hayloft party. The word went over the countryside for 
all who loved square dancing to come and enjoy. It was nearly 
the day for the hay harvest to begin, so the affair was quickly 
arranged. The owners of the fine new barn was the Willis 
Shearer family. They were well known as good farmers in the 
western townships of Marshall County but also in Stark 
County on the west and in Bureau County on the north. 

So that is how it happened that four of us in the Steuben 
neighborhood double-dated and traipsed across the country 
roads on a warm summer night to the Shearer farm. We trav- 
eled in an open touring car, arriving in time to hear the fiddlers 
scraping the bows and warming up for the evening's pleasure. 
The dance caller was Fred True, very accomplished in calling 
and always in demand. 

Within minutes Fred was directing sets of eight out onto 
the floor. It may be noted here that the elaborate full-skirted 
gingham skirts and flounced petticoats that the square danc- 
ers wear in the modern 1980's are more glamorous than the 
costumes worn in the '30's. Yes, we wore gingham skirts that 
gathered on a waistband and allowed the skirts to swirl pret- 
tily as the fellows swung us on the corners. Our ruffled blouses 
gave us the party air. 

But let it be said that the square dance outfits of the 
1930's were almost everyday dress. It was what we considered 
style. Most of the girls' outfits were homemade as opposed to 
store-bought. In many cases the skirts had been 4-H projects 
that went on to the country fair for competition with their 
peers. Some of them won blue ribbons. Some of the girls wore 
prints which were thought by several to be a notch above ging- 
ham. They were all the same style — full and flouncy. When 
the fiddlers nodded to each other, and scraped the freshly 
rosined bow across the strings, the dance began with Fred 


True up (jn a box where he could see the whole floor. The men 
wearing overalls and with red bandannas knotted loosely at 
their necks, led their dates through the elementary steps in 
obedience to allemande left and bow to your corner. The 
laughter rose to the rafters as everyone tripped through 
do-si-do without a misstep. 

As the evening progressed all the favorites were danced 
trom "Skip To my Lou" to "Dip To The Oyster," my own spe- 
cial favorite. Considered one of the most strenuous of all the 
dances, it still had had its fragile grace. 

I was the smallest dancer in the set, as I weighed almost 
ninety pounds and stood not quite five feet tall. The other 
seven towered over me. Hindsight has told me that I was too 
petite to figure in a set of five feet-six-and-seven fellows and 
girls who were more buxom than I. It was of no concern at that 

In a square the calls are executed four times to complete 
it. On the third call of "dip-to-the-oyster and right on 
t hrough" I lost my sweaty grip of my partner's hand and sailed 
right out into the center of the set. I was airborne! 

In a split second I was caught cradle-fashion in the arms 
of big, husky-built Herman, a lithe fellow who was poised to 
swing his lady through the maneuver. Herman's big blue eyes 
looked down on me as he held me in his arms for a second 
before he set me down on my feet. It was a quick rescue that 
brought laughter and the square finished only a step behind 

The dance went on and after sitting out a couple to 
regain my composure, my date and I joined another set to 
swing through the rest of the evening. In later years or when- 
ever I was at a country square dance, the memory of "Dip To 
The Oyster" came flooding back. I thought again of big 
Herman who saved both my dignity and surely some splinters 
by catching me so neatly in his arms. 


Robert ( '. Richards. Sr 

The waltz, fox trot, square dance, bunny hop, Charles- 
ton, and circle two-step were the most popular in my dancing 
days. The circle two-step was very popular, as changes of part- 
ners allowed boy to meet girl. Many couples got together in 
that manner. 

Dance studios were well attended, as boys were very shy 
and needed to bolster their confidence on the dance floor. The 
dime-a-dance halls furnished the girl partners, and dance 
tickets were purchased, 10 for $L00. Many a boy learned to 
dance at these halls. My sister, Genevieve, was in high school 
and she had a party in our farm kitchen, which was quite large, 
and a three-piece orchestra, Clyde Girkin, Bill Minks and 
Henry Orr were the Band. I was seventeen then, and the girls 
tried to show me how to dance, but I was a slow learner. So even 
with my sister teaching me I did not go to a regular dance until 
I was 19. Then it was six nights a week, with Monday the day of 

From 1927 to 1940 many famous bands like Wayne King, 
Art Castle, George Olson, and Tom Owens and His Cowboys 
were booked at the Kewanee Armory. They were sponsored by 
the police, firemen, the Kewanee Club, DeMolay, Eagles, 
Moose, Elks and other civic clubs. In the summer the 
DeMolay and the Kewanee Club sponsored pavement dances, 
which were very well attended. Local orchestras were Doc 
Hunt's, Chick Hurt, Ray Binge, Skinny Blake, Potter Brown, 
Ken Kurbut, Max Packee, Roy Dee, Frank Cornellisen, 
Shaner's, Briggs. Curley Walker and Charlie Packee's. Danc- 
ers would follow them to other towns when they played. 

Popular out-of-town bands that played in local dance 
halls were Chapin's Illini Five, Hal Miller's, Lukehart's and 
Tiny Hill. My boy friends and I would go to the Avalon and 
Roof Garden in Galesburg, Alexander Park in Princeton, 
Annawan Illinois Coliseum, Cambridge Illinois Coliseum, 


Hicks Park in Spring Valley, Silver Leaf near Brimt'ield and 
several dance halls in Peoria, Illinois to hear and dance to our 
favorite bands. The local dance halls in Kewanee were the 
Parkside Ballroom, Redman, Eagles, Moose, the Ritz, 
Knights of Pythias, Elks, American Legion, Tri-Angle Inn, 
the Flamingo, Labor Temple, the Windmont Park Pavilion 
where all the big bands played from May until October. The 
airport also had summer dances. Dreamland on North Chest- 
nut Street had dances three nights a week. Some local dance 
promoters were Roy "Doc" Hall, George Bremmer, Gint 
Hippert, Kay Voight, Joe Stewart and "Bun" Pierce. Krahns 
Orchestra advertised in telephone books, city directories and 
newspapers. Then booking agencies sprang up in many cities 
and you could call them and find the band available for a cer- 
tain date. Al Reusch and I used to promote dances at the 
Eagles, American Legion hall and the Kewanee Armory. We 
would select the most popular band available, then have post- 
ers printed out and would post them in business places in sur- 
rounding towns. Most of our promotions were successful, as 
dancing was a popular form of entertainment in a 15 year 
span, 1925-1940. Eleven music teachers were listed in the 1926 
city directory, so most of our local musicians were well 
schooled. We would also go to other towns like Rock Island 
that had the Plantation, the Davenport Coliseum and the 
Ingla Terra in Peoria for special big bands tours. Some of the 
local square dance callers were Lloyd Bumphrey, Charles 
Huffman and Lawrence Nash. We always had our own four- 
some at the square dances because over the years, dancing 
together we did pretty well. 

When they had gasoline rationing during World War II, 
there were organized "Dance for Health Week Clubs." Folk 
dances were held during coffee breaks, as a substitute activity 
for automobile riding. 

In June 1928 a man was telling a friend how bad his dance 
hall business was. The friend, a press agent, dreamed up the 
marathon dance, where couples were supposed to dance the 

longest period without sleeping or stopping for some reason. I 
believe the pay ranged from $20 to $50 for a 24-hour period. 
They would rest five minutes an hour in the first 24 hours, 
then rest 15 minutes, then dance 45 minutes. The rest and 
dance period varied from town to town. The dance hall pro- 
moter would bring in milk and sandwiches and the couples 
danced and ate in unison. A newspaper reporter wrote an arti- 
cle about the "strange" goings on in the dance hall. After that 
the craze spread all over the LInited States and the marathon 
dance was the in thing. Most charged 254 for admission. 

June 10, 1928, the championship dance was held at the 
Madison Square Garden in New York City with 91 couples 
participating. Nobody actually danced, but would sway aim- 
lessly, hanging on to each other or sleeping on his or her 
partner's shoulder. The phonograph music would never stop 
unless a regular orchestra was brought in on a Saturday or 
Sunday night. Then the couples would have to really dance for 
a few minutes. 

The Chicago Marathon staggered on for a record 259 
hours and 44 minutes with 131 contestants. Partners would 
slap each other trying to keep awake. They would get leg 
cramps and friends would rub their legs during the rest period. 
When the marathon craze reached Kewanee, the event 
attracted 50 couples and was held at the Windmont Pavilion. 
Every day a couple would drop out from exhaustion. After 14 
days "Red" Anderson and his wife won the top prize, dancing 
220 actual hours. The fad died out in 1931 and many other fads 
followed that. 

One night Bill Pitney and I were coming from a dance in 
Bradford at 2 a.m. in the morning. We saw a bright glow in the 
sky, and it was coming from a fire at the Windmont Park 
Dance Pavilion. It was September 19, 1929. Someone left a 
note at the Kewanee Fire Station saying they would burn 
Windmont Pavilion that night at 10:00 p.m. They thought it 
was the work of a crank, and did not pay any attention. How- 
ever, the fire bug kept his word and he did burn the Pavilion. It 

had been a Dance Hall for 23 years. 

As I said before I went to many dances, but the one I 
remember best is the one at Camp Grove, Illinois. It was in a 
large barn, and dances were held in the large hayloft. Many 
good orchestras played there every Tuesday night in the sum- 
mer to a very good crowd. There I first saw the girl who was 
later to become my wife. I mentioned the circle two-step as a 
means of getting acquainted, but they also had the tag dance 
where the boy would tag the girl on the shoulder while she was 
dancing; then she would dance with him. We danced together 
quite often from June, 1930 until August. Then I wrote her let- 
ters until June, 1931, when we had our first date. We would go 
to dances at Rome, Mossville, Peoria, Silver Leaf and high 
school dances, firemen's balls, etc. She graduated from the 
Chillicothe High School in 1932. I proposed the next Novem- 
ber, getting the consent of her father, because then that was 
the proper thing to do. We were married Saturday, February 
18, 1933. We have been together 52 years, so that is one dance 
hall romance that really lasted. 


Helen Sherrill-Smith 

Something — some unusual sound in the early morning 
still, brought my head up from the pillow with a jerk. What was 
it? Could it be? It was, it really was! Loud and clear now, with a 
strong rhythm, and vibrant melody, it was what we had been 
anxiously awaiting. The calliope was playing, The Showboat 
was coming in to the landing! 

Weeks before, the advance man had come through, put- 
ting up colorful posters advertising the coming attraction. 
They showed beautiful heroines, handsome leading men, vil- 
lainous villains, scantily clad dancing girls— all of which whet- 
ted our appetites for the real thing and sent us hurrying about 

looking for ways t(j earn the money we would need to see the 

After a quick breakfast, we raced to the river landing to 
see for ourselves that it was really there. What a sight! Double 
decked, with pilot house stop, lacy wooden cutouts forming 
curlicues and lattice work, gleaming white paint and lavish 
golden trim, all made it look like a floating fairyland to us! The 
lower deck was the theater with rows of seats, the stage with 
velvet curtains, tasseled drapes along the walls held back with 
golden cords. The posters called it a floating palace; that's 
what it looked like to our eager eyes. The upper deck was the 
living quarters for the cast and crew, and was strictly off limits 
to landlubbers. 

At 10:00 a.m. and again at 3:00 a.m. those very early 
showboats would send cast, crew and musicians parading up 
the levee road and through the business section of the town. 
Colorful costumes, a band playing loud martial music, high- 
stepping dancing girls in spangles and frills were sure 
attention-getters. Some who were not sure about attending 
made up their minds after having been caught up in the excite- 
ment of the parade which was of course the purpose of it. 

Not only the townspeople came to the performances; 
people from the surrounding countryside and from nearby 
inland towns crowded the floating theater. Our opportunities 
to see live theater were mostly confined to the annual play put 
on by the high school drama club or an occasional home talent 
play to raise funds for some special purposes. These local 
attempts could in no way compare with these riverboat thespi- 
ans, who made their living as actors; they were real profession- 

My younger brother and I were always ready to go to the 
performance early on trying to persuade Mother that we 
needed to be there early to get a good seat. The music of the 
calliope only made us more eager; finally we walked down the 
levee road. The way was not that well lighted, but the showboat 
was aglow. Floodlights over the gangplank led us up and inside 

the theater itself. Settled into our seats and envying the well- 
to-do who could afford the loges or boxes (small clusters of 
plush seats partly enclosed, along the side and elevated, thus 
set apart and with a better view), we were now ready with our 
hard-earned quarters for the candy and the prizes. Crew 
members with baskets containing colorful boxes threaded 
their way through the crowded aisles, loudly proclaiming that 
each and every box contained not only a large amount of deli- 
cious candy, but also a prize of untold value. Watches, neck- 
laces, pocket knives all were mentioned as possibilities. As I 
remember it, we found a few pieces of taffy and the sort of 
prizes usually found in Crackerjacks. 

Never mind, the show was now about to begin. We saw 
simple morality plays wherein the lovely leading lady was pur- 
sued by the villain, placed in dire peril, always saved at the last 
minute by the handsome hero at great risk. We saw Poor Nell 
in the snow on her stern father's doorstep, betrayed by a false 
lover; we even saw Simon Legree, whip in hand, pursuing the 
escaping slaves. Virtue was always rewarded and evil 
punished — we loved it all. Between acts there were jugglers, 
comedy skits, singing and dancing. The acting may have been 
a little overdone, but we thought it was great! 

For weeks afterward we acted out that show, playing all 
the different parts, using available grown-up clothing, making 
flowing draperies of old curtains, Spanish shawls of old table- 
cloths. The pleasure of the showboat lingered long after it had 

No more do we hear the whistle of the showboat, nor the 
early morning serenade of the Calliope heralding the arrival of 
the Cottonblossom or the Goldenrod. But memories linger, 
and even though we moved on to a local movie theater, it was 
never the same. Perhaps it was that they were river borne, 
came so seldom, gave us a glimpse of another way of life; all of 
these made the coming of the showboat such a memorable 
part of life in that little river town of Browning. 

The movie theater in our town in the early twenties was 

open for business only on Saturday night as I remember. Per- 
haps that was as much as the economy of the town could sup- 
port; John Kelly was too sharp a business man to have pursued 
a losing proposition. Anyway, the Saturday night movie was an 
important event. With piano accompaniment, we saw a pre- 
view of coming attractions, a two-reel comedy, two reels of a 
thriller-diller serial (which always ended with one of the lead- 
ing characters on the verge of violent death in a blood chilling 
situation. All this was followed by the feature film which ran 
heavily toward western or adventure pictures. 

By this time I was beginning to be aware that there was a 
special attraction developing between teenage girls and boys. 
About this same time, my foresighted Mother decided that my 
five-year-old brother would enjoy going to the movies with me. 
As she so reasonably explained, it would be no problem, since I 
was going anyway. Somehow, I got the idea that if I protested 
too much, it might be better for me to stay at home also. So I 
decided the going was no problem and once there I could 
plump him down in one of the front seats, with threats of 
death and destruction if he failed to stay in place. 

I then joined girl friends several rows back. Just behind 
us sat the boys, jockeying for position until they were nearest 
the girl they liked best. Amid what passed for wit on their part, 
giggles on ours, a little hand holding took place and sometimes 
arrangements were made to walk home together. This was 
fine, except that I couldn't leave without Little Brother. By 
this time he was fast asleep, and not at all happy to be awak- 
ened. Two blocks with a squalling kid stumbling sleepily along 
was usually enough to discourage any romance; my antici- 
pated walk home had turned into a disaster. I began to wonder 
why Mother ever thought L. B. would like to go to the movies; 
she knew he always went to sleep early and was cross as a bear 
when awakened! 

How innocent it seems now. I'm sure we did not stay that 
way for too long, but in those early and mid-teen years it took 
so little to satisfy our romantic yearnings. A smile, a glance, a 


few words together, jokes, laughter, an awkward embrace, a 
quick kiss — compared to what we see nightly on television 
where premarital and teenage sex, divorce, infidelity are pre- 
sented as a natural and normal way of life — what we consid- 
ered a happy time sounds to today's young as if we may have 
been retarded! I am sure that our more cautious, more closely 
supervised approach put us under less pressure, gave us more 
time for dreams, for anticipation, for romance and for more 
meaningful memories than today's greet, grab and gulp style 
will leave behind. 


Florence Ehrhardt 

Newspaper doilies and tissue paper flowers were works 
of art in my early childhood. My pioneer mother needed to use 
her creativity to express her individuality. Using the materials 
at hand, she folded newspaper in accordion type pleats and cut 
holes in it to make a repeated design. 

One such newspaper doilie was carefully fitted around 
the clock shelf in the kitchen. Dad and the men folks thought 
that a shelf on which to put the clock was luxury enough. In 
spite of what the men folks thought about it, these paper doi- 
lies were seen in many places in the homes of long ago. A cup- 
board, either built-in or moveable, made an ideal place to show 
off this special kind of paper art. Like shelf paper, they edged 
pantry shelves in homes with a pantry. In the summer kitchen, 
there were always a few shelves that needed a decorative 
touch, too. Often a large sheet of newspaper, with only a few 
fancy holes in it, was tacked over a window in the summer time 
to keep out the sun's heat and discourage flies. Each housewife 
was ever alert to a new design as she visited her neighbor. 

Tissue paper, like newspaper, is adaptable to many uses, 

a quality not overlooked whenever the simplest artistic 
endeavor added variety to plain surroundings. Flowers made 
from tissue paper that often came with items purchased at the 
dry goods store are an example. My mother most often made 
pom-pom type chrysanthemums. 

Using a five or six-inch circle of tissue paper, she folded it 
in half, then in quarters, in eighths, and finally in sixteenths, 
forming something of a triangle. She trimmed the shortest 
side of the triangle in the shape of a chrysanthemum petal, 
with the cuts extending to within a half-inch of the center of 
the original circle. She then snipped off a tiny piece at the tip 
of the triangle making a very tiny hole. When the paper was 
unfolded, she used a hat pin with a small, perfectly round knob 
to roll down the center of each petal, starting at the outer edge. 
This made the tissue paper curl and crinkle at the edge of each 
petal like a real flower. Best results were obtained when the 
piece of tissue paper was placed on a folded towel or on moth- 
er's knee. 

She bent a piece of thin wire on one end to form a hook to 
hold a small ball of crumpled tissue paper for the center of the 
flower. Then the crinkled petal pieces were strung on the wire, 
the wire going through the tiny hole in the center of the circle. 
Each petal piece needed patient encouragement to fit closely 
around the preceding one. A dozen or so formed a nice full 
blossom. When my mother had green paper, she cut out leaf 
shapes, using a natural leaf for a pattern, and pasted them to 
the wire just below the blossoms. 

An arrangement of these homemade tissue paper flow- 
ers was the pride of the housewife, was never touched by chil- 
dren, and sometimes covered with a lightweight cloth, or 
placed in a cupboard to keep from getting dusty. 



C. Rosemary Kane 

The other day I came across a booklet with a play entitled 
Last Daze of School. "Oh yes," I thought to myself, "that is the 
play a group of cousins put on back in 1934." Lots of you will 
remember that money was quite scarce at that time — so, since 
the "Irish Ball Club" needed money to buy equipment, we 
ordered a bunch of booklets, tickets, hand bills and such, from 
an oil company called En-Ar Co. 

Cousin Helen became our co-ordinator and helped 
assign the different parts to all eighteen cast members. What 
a job! Everyone was enthused that we were going to put on a 
play — actually everyone attended all practices and became 
very good at becoming the characters, like Cousin Helen, the 
teacher named Miss Lily Fern Primrose, the mischievous 
Johnny Junipup, the tom boy Ida Ho, the cry baby Pansy 
Bluebell, the Sissy, Sweet William, and the two who played the 
part of colored children. Black Beauty and White Rose. 

We held lots of practices and hauled lots of chairs and 
equipment to this small wooden building, the Point Pleasant 
Township Hall, we normally voted, had family gatherings, 
school programs and lots of old time square dances. Since all 
things change, this great old building has long since been torn 
down and replaced by a nice new metal building where people 
still go to vote and have social gatherings. 

Our big night finally came! Everyone was in top form— 
our performance was a success and the end results was a neat 
sum of money for our Irish Ball Club. 

The type of show was probably too corny for kids nowa- 
days, but at least it didn't contain sex and bad words — just 
good clean fun, like when Miss Lily Fern Primrose asked, 
"What is an adult?" "An adult is a papa or a mama who has 
quit growing except in the middle." Holly Hock Petunia said, 
"Let's sing the 'Forgotten Baby Carriage.'" Teacher asks, 
"How does that go?" "On four wheels." Others said, "No, let's 

sing the telephone girl song." "What is that?" 

"I hear you calling me." Then Mont Anna, the hardboiled 
character, said, "Teacher, you have been asking all the ques- 
tions, let me ask you some." He continued, "Who ate the hole 
in the doughnut? Where does a smile go when it vanishes? 
What becomes of your lap when you stand up?" The teacher 
asked, "What is this younger generation coming to?" Mont 
Anna answered, "Old Age." Miss Primrose said, "Curiosity 
once killed a cat." Violet asked, "What did the cat want to 

For a bit of business, Miss Primrose, introduced a mem- 
ber of the school board, Mr. Ed. U. Cation. He included what 
one might consider a commercial, and told about this oil com- 
pany which furnished all the script books, posters, and tickets. 
He encouraged folks to use the products White Rose Gasoline 
and En Ar Co. Motor Oil. 

Teacher asked, "Ida Ho, where do sugar and spices come 
from?" "From the neighbors." "What is a sign of an early fall?" 
Ken Tucky answered, "A sign of an early fall is a banana skin 
on the sidewalk — plop." 

"Black Beauty, what is dust?" He answered, "Why dust 
am just plain mud with the juice squeezed out." 

"Al E. Gater, can you tell us what is the tight-wad song?" 
"Yes, let the rest of the world go buy." 

"Sweet William, why does a giraffe have such a long 

He answers, "A giraffe has such a long neck because its 
head is so far from its body." 

Teacher asked, "Zeb Ra, what is an old maid?" He 
answered, "An old maid is a bachelor's wife." 

The program continued with recitations, harmonica and 
guitar music, and lots of songs, like "School Days," "The Old 
Spinning Wheel" and "School Day Sweethearts." 

Our effort to entertain folks proved very successful and 
we all agreed it was lots of fun. By the way, we made a nice sum 
of money for our favorite ball team. 



Florence Ehrhardt 

The farmhouse southwest of Fowler, IlUnois, where my 
parents set up housekeeping when they were married, had a 
large kitchen with a smooth wooden floor. Around the year 
1920, my Dad bought what has come to be known as the 
Cadillac of Victrolas, an Edison, with a diamond needle used 
with one-fourth inch thick records. Quadrilles were the dance 
of the times, and neighbors would gather at my parents' home 
for an evening of dancing in the kitchen, after some of the fur- 
niture was moved out. 

A Negro family lived in the neighborhood and were 
included. That was before anyone thought about race discrim- 
ination. I can remember seeing Jim Wilkins and his wife dance 
with the rest of the group. I can also remember seeing Mr. 
Wilkins jig to the music on records especially selected for their 

In my grandparents' home, the dances were accompa- 
nied by my grandpa's accordion music. This kitchen floor was 
first strengthened to support the stress of the dancers. 

My Dad was my first dancing partner, and after some 
practice sessions at home, my parents arranged to have two of 
my uncles, who are only a few years older than I am, moder- 
nize my dancing abilities. When I was ready, my Dad took a 
neighbor girl and me to nearby dances. After a year or two, my 
sister and brother went too. Soon we went without Dad. 

Barn dances were held in the springtime, after all of last 
year's hay had been fed to the animals. Only a few barns in the 
area were suitable for dances. The hay loft floor had to be 
fairly smooth and made easily accessible, and the loft needed 
good ventilation. Usually only the newer barns met these 

Admission was ten cents for girls and twenty-five cents 
for boys. After a four-or-five piece orchestra was paid about 
five or six dollars, the profit went to the barn owner. Ballroom 

type dancing, with steps like the box waltz, single shuffle and 
double shuffle had replaced the quadrille of my parents' day. 
Three tunes made up a dance, and popular girls would soon 
have several dances promised ahead. An occasional hoedown 
square dance or a mixer, such as a circle fox trot or broom 
waltz, didn't count when a girl was saving a dance for a certain 

I especially remember coming home from one of these 
barn dances one rainy night. My brother, sister and I had gone 
to the dance in an old Ford pick-up truck that my Dad bor- 
rowed thirty dollars to buy. Coming home, the engine got hot, 
and my brother, being knowledgeable about such things, knew 
that it needed water. We spotted a cistern with a bucket upside 
down on the cistern platform, quite near the road, but not too 
near the farm house. It would have been inconsiderate to 
awaken a sleeping family, and risky to awaken a family dog, at 
that time of night to get water. With the help of light from the 
lightning, my brother pumped some water into the bucket, put 
it into the truck's radiator, and we got home before all the 
water boiled away again. 

When the weather was too hot for barn dances, plat- 
forms were laid for dancing. These platforms were made of 
narrow, tongue-and-grooved, fourteen-foot-long pine boards, 
nailed across two-by-fours, in seven-foot sections. Seven sec- 
tions made a forty-nine-foot -long platform and fit right on a 
hayrack wagon for hauling. It took a level spot to lay the plat- 
form, a reasonable amount of parking space for cars, and some 
strong young fellows to haul, lay and return the platform, to 
have a successful platform dance. A little cooperation from 
the weatherman was important, too. 

Usually unmarried or newly married young folks 
attended these dances. Many romances were begun when a 
young fellow took a girl home from one of these dances. 



Vera A. Niemann 

The best days of my life were undoubtedly when Mama 
had the Grant School pupils at our house, marching by twos, 
fours, and breaking into single lines, led by their teacher with 
marching music by Mama. Then they gathered about the 
piano with their song books. One song remains with me: 

Green and gold and red and brown. 
See the bright leaves drifting down. 
Over the forest floor, 
0-ver the for-est floor. 

The last line was drawn out with great emphasis. The melody 
is with me too, as plain as when they sang it. I was not permit- 
ted to join the group — too young. 

There were about eighteen to twenty pupils, including 
Pauline Gossman, Ruth Buck, Donald Xander, the Schirmer 
bothers Elmer and Rudolph, Mathilda Hinterhuer, Irma 
Kuhlman, Bill Bergmann and Wilma Norbury. I was their 
captivate audience. Time always passed quickly, and I was dis- 
appointed to hear the teacher's voice "Time to line up chil- 
dren, and march back to school." 

Occasionally some of these pupils were asked to sing at 
some gatherings. I first thought they were church meetings, 
but since there were only ladies, they probably were a quilting 
group, or a little social affair. My younger brother, Les, and I 
were along on these little trips, happy to be made spic-and- 
span and wait "on that chair" until all was ready for depar- 

We felt important meeting the new ladies and the arriv- 
ing children and mothers from Grant School. When they had 
sung for the group, we were all invited to "have a bite." The 
tables of goodies were impressive to our hungry eyes. Mounds 
of tempting sandwiches and the most delicious cakes— huge 

angel food, luscious chocolate, golden sponge and many more. 
We had instructions, along with others in department, for one 
sandwich and one piece of cake. We must say "No, thank you" 
for any more. How hard it was to select that one piece of cake! 
After polite "good-byes" we were ready for the ride back home. 

Practices at school led to more during the evenings, 
when parents came with the children, bringing music stands 
and music. Both the adults and children sang and played. 
There were guitars, banjos, a cornet, several harmonicas, a 
saxophone, combs covered with paper, a saxophone and one 
drum. It was surprising to see them playing so earnestly, try- 
ing very hard to stay with Mama's "1-2-3-4" at the piano. One 
man brought his fiddle and he did join the others. When all the 
practices and singing ended, everyone begged him to play the 
fiddle. He obliged, hunched low on a chair, and vigorously tap- 
ping his foot to the tune. Some of them were "Turkey in the 
Straw," "Down by the Old Mill Stream," and slowly, "Let Me 
Call You Sweetheart." All joined in singing the familiar melo- 

Our fiddler acknowledged playing for square dances, so 
some couples came for that. My father knew a lot of square 
dance calls. He knew an Ozark way of the dance that I've 
hardly ever seen since. It was a fast shuffle of the feet between 
all the steps, so there was constant movement. It was most 
graceful and delightful to watch — three "squares" made a 
lively picture. Some of the biggest ladies were most adept and 
light on their feet. Everyone listened attentively to the calls 
and hardly ever made a mistake. When they did, there was 
great, good-natured confusion and they would start again at a 
certain step. If only there could have been home movies in 
those days, they would bring back old times, different dress 
and hair styles with all the fun people had meeting and danc- 
ing together. "Do-Si-Do," "Promenade," and "Swing Your 
Partner" were often heard. Other dances like the Virginia Reel 
and round dances were done too. When our fiddler could not 
come, he sent an accordion player. His loud, booming music 


was fjood, but it drowned out the sound of dancing feet. 

The regular music sessions continued, and another 
group formed; one young man played cello and several others 
violins, centered around Mama's piano playing. Even I could 
tell they were into good music. One time I asked Mama the 
name of one selection and hummed it for her. It was 
Schubert's "Seranade." 

In the larger group of singers, the girls graduated from 
grade school and bought long, printed sheets of words to new, 
popular songs. Words, but no music. Mama would hurry to 
town to find the sheet music for as many of these songs as she 
could afford. Strangely enough, I recall only one of these, and 
it was rather sad; "Call Me Back, Pal of Mine." 

I am sure many others realize how very much Mama pro- 
moted the enjoyment of music in this area. It is all the more 
difficult to understand how she accomplished this because she 
was a very quiet, self-effacing person. When I asked her why 
she did not play some solos, she answered, after a pause, "I 
think it is because I am a better accompanist." 


Ruby Davenport Kish 

Dad could play the violin as well as several other instru- 
ments by ear. He also had a good tenor voice and when he 
played, he would sing along with his playing. One day, a sales- 
man from the Bruce Company came through our town selling 
player pianos. Dad wanted a player piano so that he could 
pump the piano with his feet and use his hands to play the vio- 
lin and sing along at the same time. He couldn't really afford a 
piano, but then if he had waited until he could afford it, he 
probably never would have had it. 

We didn't have a radio — radios were just beginning to 
come in and very few people had them. The only time that peo- 

ple in the community had music was when they went to church 
or school programs, when traveling minstrels came to town, 
when they had band music in the park or if someone like Dad 
had instruments and could play. 

My father often told us the story of how, when he was 
eight years old, he cried for a violin because his older brothers 
had one and they played and sang together. One day when his 
brothers went to town, they came back with a violin that 
they'd picked up in a pawn shop for eight dollars. My father 
was so happy that he stayed up all night learning to play, "Pop 
Goes The Weasel." After that he could play anything he heard 
by ear. He kept the old violin all his life, although he wore out 
several bows. 

When my sisters, brother and I were small children. Dad 
would sit down after supper and play tunes like "Turkey in the 
straw," "Virginia Reel," and "Irish Washer woman." "Over the 
waves" was his favorite waltz. He would play and we children 
would get up in the floor and dance after our fashion. 

When we acquired the piano. Dad would play in the eve- 
ning and the music carried all the way down town in the sum- 
mer time. Soon the front yard and the living room would be 
filled with people. They would dance to Dad's music and when 
they tired, Dad would play the old favorite hvmns like "God 
Will Take Care Of You," "In The Garden," and "The Old Rug- 
ged Cross." He played and sang these hymns in such a way that 
he made a believer out of anyone who heard. I never hear these 
songs that I don't look back with nostalgia on those happy 
times. He brought a lot of joy in our lives with music. 

The music, the singing, and the dancing got to be a 
nightly affair. Dad would keep time by stamping his foot. As 
the noise got louder, he would stomp louder until it seemed to 
me he would surely stomp a hole in the floor. The women 
decided to bring potluck so that we could all eat together and 
have more time for fun. This went on until people started get- 
ting radios; then they only came on occasion. Always after 
these nights of singing and dancing, Dad and Mom would dis- 


cuss the events of the night before. Dad would say, "My, don't 
Happy and Mae Pitt dance well together," or "I didn't know 
that Tom and Bud Simpson had such beautiful voices." 

When Dad had the stroke at age sixty, the fingers of his 
left hand were left numb and without feeling, so that he 
couldn't finger notes anymore on the strings. He worried and 
worked with a rubber ball for two years trying to get the feeling 
to come back in his fingers. Finally, he got the idea to restring 
the violin so that he could learn to finger it with the opposite 
hand. A week after he restrung the violin, he had another 
stroke and died. Had he lived, I'm sure he would have accom- 
plished what he set out to do as he was a very determined per- 
son and didn't give up until he had to. He left us a heritage of 
beautiful memories. 


Lillian Nelson Combites 

My first memory of the Victrola goes back sixty years or 
more ago. It was years before we had one, but a lady about 
three blocks from us shared hers with us when we were fortu- 
nate to have a dime for a dozen. Mrs. McKee was a paper 
hanger, and we used to make many trips to her house in the 
spring of the year when the new wallpaper books came out. 
She gave different children of the neighborhood the old books. 
We made booklets of the unprinted parts of the sheets, drew 
Valentines and made cut-outs of Campbell Kids, and used the 
rest for scratch paper. No matter what excuse brought us to 
her house, she always played the Victrola for us. We were 
never allowed to touch, but we sure did listen. It was a square 
box that set on a table with a horn speaker. The records were 
round cylinder ones, the music was wonderful, and we never 
did figure how the music could come from it. 

A neighbor who lived across the street had an old dis- 

carded Victrola in the shed. We brought it out, sat in the yard 
in a circle on the ground, and played it. It was also a square box 
and had to be wound with a crank. There was a big round red 
horn with huge flowers painted on. It played the flat records. 

We had one at our elementary school that was in a suit- 
case carrier. This was used by the school for our music class. 
Two rooms had three grades each, and seventh and eighth 
grade were in one room together. We took turns sharing music 
days. Here I was taught by records the different instruments 
of an orchestra and introduced to finer music like "The Blue 
Danube Waltz." I really liked music class. 

Later my sister's boy friend had one of the suitcase style 
and would bring it and records to play for us. I learned a lot of 
songs from these records. 

Later my brother worked at Hainline Vault works in 
Macomb. They made Cyprus wood vaults. Each payday he 
went by the music store and bought two records. How excited 
we were when he come home and we sat up late at night playing 
them. By then we had a suitcase Victrola. 

We later bought a box Victrola. All these played flat 
records. Sometimes the spring would break if we wound it too 
tight. Until we could get another, we still played the record by 
putting a finger in the middle of the turn table and twisting 
round and round. 

Later our two children had one of the suitcase style. 
When their grandmother broke up house keeping, she gave 
them her old Victrola that stood on the floor. It played the old 
Edison thick records. The children finally broke the spring 
and we never had money to buy one or couldn't buy one. It sat 
upstairs in the storeroom and parts were lost. The records are 
still good. 

Lather the old Victrola was taken by our daughter up to 
Bolingbrook, Illinois. She is restoring it, and one day it will 
play again. Some parts have come from some dealers and big 
flea markets. Some parts have been shipped from California. 
One day we may hear those old records again. Henry Burr was 


my favorite singer. 

We have a stereo now given us by one of our children, but 
it will never be as great to me as the old Victrola from long, 
long ago and all the happy memories of long ago that I still 


Harriet Brkker 

I was very fortunate to have been exposed to music via 
the Victrola as a child in the twenties. One benefit was, if none 
other, that I absorbed such a variety! 

With the wind-up Victrola standing in the hall, I well 
remember my child's record. A nasal voiced fellow coyly sang 
the ditty about "pretty Bobby Shaftoe" who went to sea. 
Bobby was also "fat and fair, combing down his yellow hair" 
which didn't seem to put me off too much, except that it 
sounded so dreadful that I still recall it. His encore was "Oh, 
dear, what can the matter be?" which was a combination of the 
poor little record and some laggard who lingered too long at 
the fair and wasn't bringing home the "bunch of blue ribbons" 
he promised the girl with the "bonny brown hair." From 
Mother Goose, this was not an auspicious start for music 

But that old Victrola held other treasures. Slowly climb- 
ing the scale, there was Harry Lauder singing — and again the 
word "singing" is of doubtful authenticity — "In the Gloam- 
ing." He went roaming in the gloaming, "the time he liked the 
best," many, many times to the delight of my dad and me and 
the forbearance of my mother. 

In the hall where the Victrola reigned, there was a Wilton 
rug patterned in geometric design. When the Sousa records 
came on, I marched around and around that rug, up the sides, 
across the diagonals, and over the ends. I doubt if the rug's nap 

survived, but I had intimations of future marching bands, I'm 
sure. Then I whistled along with Arthur Prvor's band and 
"The Whistler." 

Operetta music was popular then and I had been fortu- 
nate to be taken to see a few stage productions in Chicago as a 
child. One was "Rose Marie" by Friml and, having the record, I 
warbled the title song as I roller skated along. Another was 
"Lilac Time" based on the music and, supposedly, the life of 
Schubert. At the time I was greatly impressed, as any child 
should have been, sitting in a box seat! But listening now to the 
re-issue of the old record on my player makes me realize it was 
a travesty! However, I grew into a devotee of that lovely 
Schubert music. 

Disposing of a few comical records, we come to the real 
stuff and my first introduction to the world of opera and the 
classics. Here came the old war horses, the Sextette from 
Lucia and the Quartette from Rigoletto. The "Meditation" 
from Thais and the "Bell Song" from Lakme became familiar. 
There was Geraldine Ferrar and Galli-Curci. Caruso sang the 
famous aria from Pagliacci. John McCormack sang "Some- 
where a Voice is Calling" and, with Reinald Werranrath in 
duet, "The Crucifix." Who remembers Reinald Werranrath? I 
do! Of course, the Overture to William 7e//, and the "1812" and 
Orpheus, not forgetting the "Anvil Chorus" from // lYovatore. 
The family favorite, I think, was Fritz Kreisler plaving so 
beautifully "The Old Refrain." 

Even though the accompaniments were tinny and the 
too prominent horns went um-pah, umpah, the music of the 
Victrola came through to stay. 



Isal N. Kendall 

I will never forget the night that I and my brother and sis- 
ter were awakened by our laughing, excited parents— and 
brought down stairs to the sound of music never heard in our 
house before. It was not long before we were dancing to the 
lively tunes coming from a large horn attached to a small 
brown box. It was called in those days a talking machine. 

Papa had left early that morning by train on the Santa Fe 
railroad to accompany his load of fed cattle to market at 
Galesburg, 111. As was his custom on these annual trips, he 
searched for something to bring home to the family. One time, 
it had been a fine oak sideboard for the dining room. Another 
time it had been a new kind of couch for the parlor. Both the 
head and foot of this couch could be mechanically raised and 
lowered to make it comfortable for sitting on or lying down. 
This time he brought a Victor graphaphone. 

Papa had arrived home late that night long after we 
"youngens" were asleep. He had ridden from Galesburg to 
Williamsfield on what was known as the Hog Train, a freight 
train with one passenger car attached to the end. It stopped at 
all the small town stations and was quite a convenience in 
those days of no cars and mud roads. 

Mamma and papa were so happy with this music-making 
contraption they could not wait for morning to show it to us. 
We had a wonderful thing. 

This happened in about 1902, when I was possibly six 
years old, my brother eight and my sister four. Up until that 
time, the only music we had in our home was mamma singing. 
In her clear strong voice, she often sang to us such songs as 
"Who Killed Cock Robin?" or "Throw out the Life Line, 
Someone is Sinking To-day," or something to make us laugh: 
"Bell was the name of our hired girl." 

Nowadays, with stereo music filling the air in shopping 
centers, grocery stores and most everywhere including our 

homes, it is hard to believe at six, I had heard only songs at 
Sunday School, hymns at church and martial music by the 
Williamsfield Village Band on holidays and on Saturday eve- 
nings in the good old summer time. 

Our phonograph soon became a sensation in the neigh- 
borhood. My parents had them all in to enjoy it with us. Our 
warm summer evenings, they would gather in our front yard 
bringing a kitchen chair to sit on, and our parents would play 
their favorites over and over, ending the evening with cake and 

We kids loved to play our favorites, even though we had 
to change the needle after each one. 

"Turkey-in-the-Straw" was our number one favorite, 
with "Bill Baily, Won't You Please Come Home?" a close sec- 

"Hello Central, Give me Heaven, for My Mamma's 
There" made us weep. Although we did not understand the 
meaning of "A Bird in a Gilded Cage," it was such a pretty mel- 
ody we liked to listen and feel sad with out knowing why. 

We kids and our friends laughed hilariously during the 
playing of "Jerusalem" by an opera singer. We did not under- 
stand that kind of singing. We scoffed and mimiced and had a 
wonderful time while that well trained tenor gave that song his 
all. Yet today when I hear that song, I remember the fun we 
had in our ignorance. Now decades later, I wish for a bit those 
kids were here to laugh with me as I watch some overtrained 
artist on TV. trying too hard and making a himself ridiculous. 
When I was young, we called it "puttin' on the agony." 

Our record of Josh Billings describing his first stay in a 
"hospitle," enjoying every minute of the telling, brought 
smiles to the faces of even the sober ones in spite of them- 

There was another company putting out a phonograph 
at the time. They called their machine an Edison. The horn 
was made to look like a big blue morning glory and their 
records were cylindrical. 


The records for the Victor were tlat. hke our record today 
only much thicker. The Victor people had an appealing trade- 
mark. It was the picture of a small black and white terrier sit- 
ting in front of a Victor phonograph with an alert ear cocked 
into the horn. The caption below read, "his master's voice," a 
trademark that became known the world over. 

The years flew by with our little phonograph doing its 
work well until in 1914, when it was traded in one a new one 
with no horn but better sound. It was encased in a four-foot- 
high cabinet of well polished mahogany finished wood and was 
called a Victrola. 


Audrey Ashley-Runkle 

The curtain rises, the pit orchestra plays, an amber spot 
is on Lawton as he does his juggling act. Variety Pioneers fol- 
lows with songs and clogs, concluding with a snappy 
Charleston routine. The Two-Man Quartet, an arrangement 
of fun and song, are next. Djiro, accordionist, and a trio per- 
form. A grandpa character, Phil Rich, and a charmer, Alice 
Adair, do a skit, "The Flower Vendor." The final act is "Joe 
Bennett and Co." with dancing and instrumental music. The 
curtain comes down, the house orchestra plays. They fade. 
The Wurlitzer rises from the pit, a spot on the organist as she 
plays; the house lights dim and the moving picture begins. 
This is 1926 theatre fare of vaudeville and movie with house 

In 1926 I was girl pianist with a six-piece jazz band that 
assisted two multi-talented dancers. We were "Joe Bennett 
and Co." and were on Orpheum Circuit, Vaudeville, booked 
out of the Chicago office. 

Vaudeville was in good shape and going strong. For years 
it had been an important part of the moving picture establish- 

ment. It was live. The movies were silent. Talkies, as they were 
called, were not as yet perfected. Picture show business was 
thriving. Everyone went to the movies. Theatres were packed. 
Still, in a few years, vaudeville would be gone. 

Big theatres boasted pit orchestras of eight to twelve 
musicians and a director, excellent organists and pianists for 
the movies and specialties, stage hands, lighting specialists 
and a stage manager. They also gave their public from four to 
nine vaudeville acts at every show. 

Our band had been organized in college. We were cut 
from nine pieces to six, composed of three women (saxophone, 
banjo, piano) and three men (saxophone, trumpet, drums). 
We were named "Jazz Classmates" by Orpheum Circuit. The 
two dancers were Joe Bennett, an experienced Ziegfeld 
dancer, and Rose Wynn, who had been in vaudeville previ- 

We had much to learn and do: help compose an act, learn 
all dance and special music, learn cues and nuances, learn 
showmanship, makeup technique, keep the show peppy, alive 
and interesting. 

We played Chicago's "break-in" houses, small neighbor- 
hood theatres. These were our trying out places. As a result, 
two dancers and three musicians were eliminated. We were 
down to six in the band and the two dancers. We were not paid 
for these practice performances. We kept the act moving and 
no time was wasted. We learned to even make a bow in the 
least amount of time. We were preparing ourselves to be 
viewed by the vaudeville circuits. 

After about two months, we learned that on a certain 
night, at a certain theatre, representatives from Pantages, 
Orpheum and Keith Circuits would look us over. Every act 
that night was on the spot. Our act was "bought" by Orpheum 
Circuit. We cost about $3500.00 a week, which included trans- 
portation and salary. 

Orpheum Circuit was booker and promoter. They fixed 
salaries, set up transportation routes, and made hotel 


arrangements. Travel was by train. Sometimes we would ride 
all night and arrive at our destination an hour before show 
time. I was paid $35. a week. Joe was paid $350.00. We could 
pay for hotel and food and have money left. I received a $2.50 
raise later on. 

Our act was considered a big act, having eight people. 
Usually we were the last act of the show. Jugglers, magicians, 
and animal acts preceded us. Each theatre planned its own 
sequence of acts. 

Usually, we played a split week, Monday through 
Wednesday at one theatre, and Thursday through Sunday at 
another theatre. Most theatres had three shows at 3:30, 6:00, 
and 9:30. Where four shows were scheduled, one was added at 

Our act followed this order: Joe and Rose opened in front 
of the curtain with a comedy routine. As they left, the band, on 
stage, started "Breezin' Along With The Breeze," as the cur- 
tain went up. We bowed and immediately went into an acro- 
batic dance routine by Rose. Joe did an eccentric dance seated 
in a chair. The band played "Black Bottom." Rose, having a 
costume change for each dance, did another dance. The act 
ended with Joe and Rose doing a toy soldier tap dance in cos- 
tume. They bowed and we bowed and the curtain came down. 
The pit orchestra played. 

Dressing rooms below the stage, and some on stage, were 
assigned to each act in accordance to importance of the indi- 
vidual or group. Rose and Joe had their own dressing rooms. 
The three women were in one room and the three men in 

another. Costumes were in trunks which were delivered to the 
dressing rooms. 

Some of the theatres and cities we played were 
Northshore, Riviera, Tivoli, Tower and break-in houses in 
Chicago; Ottawa, Waukegan, Streator, Aurora, Joliet, 
Rockford, Galesburg, Peoria, Decatur, Springfield, Cham- 
paign, Quincy. We played the Midwest area of theatres, but 
were primarily in Illinois, with head office in Chicago. I have 
no record of itinerary, but some of the theatres were Orpheum, 
Majestic, Palace, Joie, Novelty, Mainstreet, Indiana. All of 
these were Orpheum Circuit Vaudeville houses. 

Theatres were rich, decorative, colorful, ornate, ostenta- 
tious, sometimes garish and overdone. The drapes, light fix- 
tures and trappings were lush and tasteful. The acoustics, 
generally, were wonderful. We did not use speakers or amplifi- 

The act finally closed after a rather short period, and I 
went back to college. 

Television, sound to movies, transportation changes, 
loss of interest and the depression were responsible for the 
demise of vaudeville. It still exists, but is an adjunct to clubs 
and television programs. 

This was an interesting and educational experience. It 
was fun. The actors we met were good people trying to make a 
living while waiting to move on to other things. Some were 
troupers and this was their life. To our band, it was an experi- 
ence to remember. 

VIII School Days 



Throughout much of America's history, the two great 
centers of community activity were the church and the school, 
and in many small towns today school and church remain the 
hubs of community life, although the post office, the cafe, and 
the town bar are all staking their claim to townsfolks' time. In 
an increasingly secular world, the church receives proportion- 
ately less time than it once did; as the nation focuses its atten- 
tion and energies increasingly on sports, the school — or the 
high school football and basketball teams— grows in impor- 
tance. The recent movie Hoosiers is instructive on the pre- 
mium midwestern towns place on high school athletics, on the 
way a town's life can become focused on the local school ... or 
its basketball team. 

Although organized sports were not a major part of early 
twentieth-century schools (many schools would have found it 
impossible to field a football squad, and been hard-pressed to 
put together a basketball team), school played a prominent 
role in community life, and school days provide important 
memories to those who grew up in the 1920's and 1930's. 

And how different things were! As often as not, the rural 
school was a one-room school, with all grades mixed together, 
older students tutoring younger students, each student receiv- 
ing almost individualized instruction (individualized instruc- 
tion and self-paced learning have been recently rediscovered 
by educationalists and are all the rage in the nation's more 
progressive schools these days). Everybody in the school par- 
ticipated in programs at Christmas and patriotic holidays and 
graduation exercises in the spring. Teachers taught every sub- 
ject in the curriculum and sometimes directed the preparation 
of an occasional hot lunch. They were not necessarily gradu- 
ates of four-year, state-licensed teaching programs, either- 
just literate individuals who met with the approval of local 
school boards and were able, one way or another, to maintain 
discipline in a school where some of the children were larger 

than they. 

Instructional materials were limited. The physical plant 
was a building of one room (or, for the larger schools, two or 
three — grades 1, 2, and 3 in one room, 4 , 5 and 6 in another, 7 
and 8 in a third), furnished with student and a teacher's desks, 
blackboard, flag and portraits of Washington and Lincoln. 
Books were few, and most school libraries, in the words of one 
former teacher, "not worthy of the name." Perhaps the school, 
with a box social or some other fund-raiser, had bought a globe 
or a ball and a bat. There was no audio-visual equipment, no 
reference library, no locker room, no computers. Yet this type 
of school produced, proportionately, more American persons 
of distinction than did any other form of educational institu- 
tion, thanks almost exclusively to the dedication of its teach- 
ers. (Robert Bly, perhaps the most prominent living American 
poet, received his education — before Harvard — in just such a 
school, because his father refused to allow the rural Madison 
school to be consolidated; his reminiscences on that education 
are worth reading.) 

A teacher's duties extended far beyond instruction. She 
(usually; occasionally he) maintained the school building, 
which meant firing the stove in the morning and sweeping the 
floor in the late afternoon. She directed plays and special pro- 
grams, usually drawn or adapted from materials provided at 
teacher institutes or printed and distributed in early versions 
of what we now call resource books. She put out fires on the 
school roof. She adjusted her personality to whatever family 
she happened to be "boarding with" for this particular two- 
week period. She oversaw the transformation from childhood 
to young adulthood of several generations of Americans. She 
retired without a pension. 

Student memories of schooldays are, for the most part, 
of the special days. This might be the school play ( not, usually, 
of a particularly high quality artistically, but an opportunity 
for students to develop skills, show off in front of friends and 
parents, and learn how to deal with a bad case of jitters). This 


might have been a special program (songs, recitations, pag- 
eants, orations, all orchestrated by the teacher). This might be 
the fire in the school roof. Many of the women remember the 
box socials or pie socials, for which each girl prepared a meal 
(or a pie) in an elaborately decorated box to be auctioned off at 
the social to a male (probably her boyfriend or father) who 
would share the goodies with her and, if events had progressed 
to that stage, walk her home that evening. Pranks are remem- 
bered by both men and women. 

And so are the long walk to and from school, in all kinds 
of weather, down dirt roads or through the back pasture and 

across the creek, mile or two-mile hikes in the company of sis- 
ters and brothers, neighborhood children, pet dogs, farm ani- 
mals, timid woodland creatures, great and small, and the 
constantly changing tapestry of meadowland grasses, shrubs 
and farms. Here was an education in itself, and, in retrospect, 
the stuff of fond memories. For in school, as in so much of our 
lives, what is important is not so much what happens when we 
get there as what happens along the way. 

David R. Pichaske 



Vera B. Simpson 

I grew up in an area that sophisticated people might laiiel 
culturally deprived. There was potential, and sometimes 
desire, for a richer cultural life, but economic and other practi- 
cal considerations made realization difficult. 

A few "refined" families interested in art, literature, and 
music provided the community with musicians and teachers 
of piano or violin, but the energies of most people were 
exhausted by the struggle to secure the necessities of life. 

Reading material was limited in many homes, and the 
flickering light from a kerosene lamp discouraged reading. My 
parents read local newspapers. The Prairie Farmer magazine, 
and occasionally the Bible, which my father referred to as 
"true stories." I remember the shock on the face of a lady visi- 
tor who, when he stated that he liked "true stories," thought he 
was referring to a popular romantic confession magazine 
called True Story. 

Two households in our neighborhood had a variety of 
magazines and books. One of these was the home of E. H. 
Diehl, a respected scholar, area historian, and contributor to 
local newspapers. My aunt, Bessie Roddis Weber, who had an 
upstairs bedroom overflowing with books, often loaned read- 
ing matter to me and gave me a boxful of Youth 's Companion 
magazines. I treasured them for years. 

Numerous families had either a piano or pedal organ, 
and a few had player pianos with music rolls, like "Drowsy 
Waters," "Red Wing," and "Missouri Waltz." Gramophones, 
with large horns for amplification, using either disk or cylin- 
drical records, were in some homes. Radios, along with the 
phonograph, brought to many ears for the first time the 
sounds of truly professional music, even if notes were occa- 
sionally distorted. 

My parents bought a battery-powered radio with a 
goose-neck shaped horn amplifier in 1928, but we used it spar- 

ingly. Batteries lost their charge rapidly, and no one was quite 
so upset as a farmer who wanted to listen to market and news 
reports at noon only to find a discharged battery. 

Art work was thought to be for children, with their boxes 
of crayons, but not for adults. Our neighbor, Harry Wickert, 
was scolded by both his father and teachers for wasting time 
sketching horses. A display of art masterpieces was circulated 
among area high school one year, but, on the whole, art appre- 
ciation opportunities and participation were rare. 

Monthly community meetings in rural schools contrib- 
uted to social life in winter. There was generally a program, 
socializing, and refreshments. The actors, singers, and guitar 
pickers were usually amateurs, but audiences were apprecia- 
tive. A number of "old timers" scraped a bow across fiddle 
strings with good results, and several people played the 
French harp or harmonica, by ear. I remember an evening 
when a red-haired lady sang a solo, accompanied by a guitar- 
ist. They unfortunately started the song with each in a differ- 
ent key, and, like wind-up toys that will not stop until they run 
down, the two valiantly struggled through to the end. The 
number received a hearty ovation and was probably enjoyed 
more than all the others on the program combined. 

Rural school teachers directed their students in Christ- 
mas programs and possibly one at Halloween or Thanksgiving 
as well, using materials ordered from catalogues given them at 
a yearly institute. Paine Publishing Company in Cincinnati, 
Ohio, was a popular supplier. The Dennison Company cata- 
logue was used for crepe paper, program materials, and ideas 
for homecomimg floats. 

Rural school libraries were often not worthy of the name. 
In Washington School near Ipava we had a dictionary and a 
set of "saclopdia." That was the extent of our library until I 
was in fourth grade, when four books from the state reading 
circle list were ordered for upper grades. The nearby 
Whealdon School had an extensive library, much of it donated 
by P. H. Hellyer, our beloved Fulton County Superintendent of 


Schools for many years. He had attended that school in child- 

A few rural schoolrooms had pianos that were used by 
teachers who could play the instrument, but even without 
musical accompaniment, the school day often began with 
group singing. 

Capable teachers were sometimes able to instill the love 
of reading in their students. Teachers occasionally read orally 
to the entire room and stories were thus shared. Our reading 
texts were excellent. They often contained abridged versions 
of classical literature, such as Thackerary's The Rose and the 
Ring, as well as stories and poetry by other acclaimed writers. 
We memorized most of the poems but, unfortunately, recited 
them in a singsong voice, swaying back and forth as we did so. 
Even now, the lines of poems I learned then happily come back 
to me. 

A few towns established libraries with monetary help 
from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, but Ipava was not one 
of them, although we had a small library with Anna Quillin as 

Perhaps our community was more fortunate than others 
in that Miner Borck, a college-educated Shakespearean 
scholar and actor, was a familiar figure on the streets of Ipava 
for many years. He tried to bring a higher level of culture into 
our lives. As is often the case when someone gains the atten- 
tion of contemporaries, there were various personal opinions 
of Miner. The most flattering of these was that he was a mis- 
placed genius. 

He was a smallish, somewhat dainty fellow with a fuzz of 
hair sticking out on both sides of his head. I think he prided 
himself on his individuality — a "free spirit" of casual groom- 
ing and at times a caustic tongue. A bachelor with no family 
obligations, he was able to devote his life to the work he 
enjoyed: writing, directing plays, and supervising community 

Miner was hired annually to direct class plays in several 

central Illinois high schools. When I was a freshman, we gave 
an all-school play that Miner wrote and directed. I think the 
title was Land of the Upside Down Umbrella. The script must 
have been a literary masterpiece, possibly ranking with 
Shakespeare, if worth is determined by the fact that scarcely 
anyone understood it. I suspect our performance was a disap- 
pointment to Miner. Only a few students seemed able to define 
their roles and perhaps do them justice. Miner also wrote a 
book of poetry. Birds that Frequent the Night. I found it as dif- 
ficult to understand as Land of the Upside Down Umbrellal 

During the Great Depression, Ipava merchants paid 
Miner to organize weekly programs presented in the park on 
summer evenings. Usually there was a short play, music, and 
an endless number of tap-dancing imitators of Shirley Temple 
slapping away on stage. People enjoyed these programs, espe- 
cially mothers of the aspiring Shirley Temples! 

Also in summer there were tent shows and an occasional 
Chautauqua, which, with its lectures, debates, etc., was proba- 
bly more cultural than the tent show. The audience was seated 
either on centrally placed chairs or bleachers. Plays such as 
East Lynne. Tempest and Sunshine, and Uncle Tom's Cabin, 
were performed. Various members of the tent-show cast 
entertained with singing, dancing, and telling jokes between 
acts. Local people especially enjoyed jokes like this: 

"Who was that lady I seen you with last night?" 
"That wasn't no lady! That was my wife!" 

Whatever that joke reveals about the cultural level of our 
community, I must add that it is difficult to acquire cultural 
values that you hardly know exist, and that it is possible for a 
person to lead a fulfilling, happy life in a restricted cultural 
environment. When I was a child, many people I knew did 



■Juanita Jordan Morlcy 

It was 1931 and I had just graduated from MacMurray 
College, Jacksonville, Illinois with a B.A. Degree in Art Edu- 
cation and a minor in English. Try as hard as I might, I could 
find no openings in the education field for my qualifications— 
the depression still had its grip on the nation. 

My first year out, at least eight of my friends were in sim- 
ilar plight, so we all enrolled in shorthand and typing classes 
at the local high school (Watseka Community High School). 

In the spring of 1932 I heard of a vacancy at the 
Longshore School just three miles south of Watseka on the 
Woodland Road. I started on my quest— never having been in 
a country school in my life, I figured my first job would be for 
the experience. I was right! 

After finding out who the directors were, I started seek- 
ing them out. The last one I remember vividly. He was plowing 
a field and must have been nigh into the middle of it when I 
stopped him. Trudging over a freshly plowed field was a new 
experience and a bit degrading, but I got the job — eight 
months at $40 a month, minus either three or four months of 
$5 deductions each month for Teacher's Retirement. There 
was the problem of transportation and janitor work at the 
school. The latter I did myself — I learned to fire a furnace, 
bank a fire, sweep the floor whose cracks never gave up all the 
dirt. My Dad drove me to school and sometimes I took his car, 
picking up several students as passengers along the way. Often 
I received eggs, fresh butchered meat or the like in gratitude 
for my service. Sometimes I received nothing. 

My school was large — thirty pupils at one time the larg- 
est. They were in all eight grades and no alternating of grades. 
Some names like Schladdenhauffen were so long I could not 
make them fit in the school register — as I remember there 
must have been at least five of them in the family. I had to 
learn how to schedule all subjects within the school day. 

Believe you me. it was a puzzlement! I attended a teacher's 
institute before school started that gave me many pointers on 
how to keep the primary grades interested and learning. I had 
the upper grades listening when they should have been doing 
their work. Their comment was, "We didn't do that when we 
were in first grade." Flattering, but not helpful! 

I heard my aunts tell of their country school 
experiences — the recitation bench, the games and pranks on 
the playground, the lunches they packed to school. Now I 
knew what they were talking about. Now I had a recitation 
bench and problems on the playground and in the outdoor toi- 
lets. What do you do when your little first grade boy comes to 
you and asks "What does f-u-c-k spell?" After a session with 
the older boys, we had a scrub party down in that outdoor 
privy. Then there were the lunches of cold biscuits and maybe 
nothing more. It was after seeing these lunches I was 
prompted to start a hot lunch program. 

Our school building had a vestibule — really a cloak-room 
in which we placed a small kerosene stove. I don't know where 
we got it, but it worked. I assigned lunch committees, clean-up 
committees and whatever else we needed to make it work. And 
it did! Our favorite menu was tomato soup, which the girls had 
a good success in making. It was only after I insisted the boys 
have their turn at it that it lost its popularity— the boys' soup 
curdled! This brought much criticism from the girls. When 
someone in the neighborhood butchered, we had fresh meat 
for lunch. It took longer to prepare, but no one assigned to pre- 
pare it seemed to mind. Even clean-up was done happily, as 
that got them out of studying. Since we did not do "hot lunch" 
every day of the week, I felt they did not get robbed of precious 
study time. 

Christmas was always a special time. I would spend much 
time looking in my old Latta Teacher's Aid Book for ideas, 
poems to recite, songs to sing, etc., sometimes short plays. 
These I would type and assign to different students to recite. 
Near Christmas much time was often needed to ready our- 


selves for the program. 

Our school had many windows on the south — a tew 
reflector kerosene lamps on the same wall and that was it. I 
used the lamps only for the Christmas program as this was the 
only night program. If some of the parents had not brought 
lanterns or big special lights, we would have been pretty much 
in the dark! An old pump organ furnished our music, which I 
asked one of the parents to provide for the program. All went 
well except for this lady's husband, who invariably sat in the 
l)ack of the room and carried on, trying to get the pupils to 
laugh or forget their lines. 

There are always those students who take your all in 
order to teach them, and one was Fern. I kept her in at recess 
to help her read. Once I kept her for awhile after school, in 
which case she informed me, "My Dad will whup you if I don't 
get home!" When the kids found she had thrown her books 
under the coal shed, I had her retrieve them and then took her 
home. I never saw her father, so he never whupped me. I don't 
think she learned to read either! 

My pupils had a great fear of anything beyond their 
home territory. About the time when we were reviewing hard- 
est for county eighth grade exams, questions of high school 
would come up. When I talked high school they would shutter. 
One girl said high school was "too big" and had "too many 
doors" she would be lost. It was then I decided to bring a few 
home with me on week-ends. My folks were most obliging in 
helping me accomplish this. I also saw a side of my pupils I did 
not know: they were silly! When you talked to them they would 
giggle instead of answering you. When I found one of my little 
first graders with his underwear sewed on, I figured I had seen 
it all (or just the reverse). 

Our school picnic ended the school year. Parents were 
welcome, but because spring was a busy time, they couldn't 
always make it. The day was spent with fun and games and lots 
of eating. 

I learned more by far than the students those years in my 

country school. You dared not show emotions when you found 
your desk drawer full of squeaking mice! And where else could 
you get a cross-section of all grades, all ages, so quickly? I 
found that Friday afternoons after recess was one of their 
favorite times — and mine also. That was when we had art. 

I taught one year at Longshore— the next year, second 
grade at the South Side School in Watseka. I got married at 
the end of that year ( 1934). Since married teachers could not 
be hired, I resigned. After a year learning to keep house, I was 
back at Longshore for two more years. I must have helped to 
overcome some fears of high school, as a goodly number of my 
pupils did go ahead and graduate. Now that era of country 
schools is long gone and almost forgotten. 


Florence Braun 

We lived on the edge of a sloping hill across from a stand 
of trees. My father, mother and two brothers, Kenneth and 
Virden, and I had moved there from the little village to this 
small farm. 

In earlier times this land had also been covered with tim- 
ber; the tree stumps were still there on the hill back of the 
house. My father would try to burn them in the fall after the 
corn was in shocks. We liked to watch the stumps burn and the 
red coals; we would put grains of corn on a piece of tin while 
the coals of fire were hot. The corn would parch and have a 
very special smell, almost like popcorn. We would run from 
stump to stump on the hillside chewing the parched grains of 
corn. The sloping hill back of the house was shaped like a 
spoon, and was cut off slick as a whistle at the old spring where 
the stock came to get water. It ran a steady stream below the 
hill, except in winter when ice froze all around it. 

A huge old walnut tree stood beside the road and fur- 


nished shade for the travelers who stopped there to cool off. It 
always provided plenty of walnuts for any one who would 
gather them. It was said that Abraham Lincoln had traveled 
this old trail, and stopped under the shade of this large walnut 
tree on his way across the prairie to the county seat at 

My Grandmother Roberts lived in a little house alone 
back of the timber and walnut tree. She spent her days gather- 
ing bark from under the trees to burn in her cook stove. She 
had stocks of the long pieces of bark piled up around the stove 
in neat rows. 

I used to sit on the porch with her while she peeled apples 
to cook. She used an old paring knife worn so thin that only a 
thin blade was left. Above the kitchen door she had cut strips 
of newspaper and fastened them to the door to scare the flies 
away. When the door was opened or shut the paper would rat- 
tle and blow to scare the flies when we went in and out. She 
also had a big fly swatter made of screen wire to kill the flies 
that came in. I like to walk in the hot deep dust on my bare feet 
in the lane, through the tall trees and weeds to my Grand- 
mother's house. 

Sometimes in the summer she came to our house for din- 
ner. We ate on our long screened-in porch across the back of 
the house. Everything tasted so good out there. We would have 
our own cured ham, vegetables from the garden, cheese made 
from clabber milk and blackberry pie made from the berries 
that grew along the road. 

Always there was a bouquet of dark purple petunias and 
sweet peas gathered from the fence by the garden. The sweet 
peas were very delicate pastel colors and smelled so sweet I 
could barely believe it. 

The little one-room village school where my brothers 
and I walked was one and a half miles across the valley and 
hills. The walking all during the year, and through the differ- 
ent seasons, was as much a part of our education as the books 
were. One of my friends says she never remembers getting a 

ride to school or being brought home. 

As we walked, I carried my small red lunch box and would 
meet other children along the valley. We walked the length of 
the long hedge row, sitting down on a snow drift in winter to 
rest. My friend Flora lost her reader there and it wasn't found 
until the snow melted in the spring. 

We walked across the small red bridge and always looked 
to see what was there. We looked for a bird or any kind of ani- 
mal that might be there. We met other children in groups of 
three and four along the way; one very favorite family were 
four children from a German family who had just arrived in 
this country. They would meet us every day. They wore bright 
colored clothes and cheeks were as red as apples. They knew a 
few words of English, but we liked them so much that it wasn't 
very long until we understood what they said in German, and 
they could soon speak some English. 

We met another boy who rode a brown and white spotted 
pony to school, and we thought he had a fast way to go. 

As we left the valley to walk up the long sloping hill, there 
was a lot to see, especially in the spring. The wild plums and 
crabapples were in bloom in clusters along the road and 
smelled so good I can never forget. Meadowlarks and song 
sparrows were all along the way, sitting on the fences and wires 
singing as we went. One hardly ever sees these birds now, and I 
miss their cheery songs. Later in summer the wild roses 
bloomed on this bank, by the road. These were my very favor- 
ite flowers, growing wild and thick. They were a delicate pale 
pink with single petals and yellow centers, growing there 
among the tall weeds and other wild flowers. The leaves were 
very fine, and they never grew very tall. They had a delicate 
fragrance and smelled very sweet as only a wild rose could. 
Never in my imagination would I have thought these would 
disappear. Bittersweet and wild grapes hung on the fences in 
the fall and added much to our walk. 

One sad day as we walked down this sloping hill from 
school, one little boy was hit and killed by a car. He ran down 


the dirt path on the bank uito the road. There were only a few 
cars, and the children didn't expect to see one. I was walking 
ahead that evening and looked back to see something was 
wrong. How we missed that little boy later on as we walked to 
and from school. 

Sometimes a wagon load of green cane stalks would come 
by as we played at school and some of the children would get a 
long stalk of the cane, break it up and chew it to get the sweet 
juice. The load of cane was on the way to Mr. Wilson's 
sorghrum mill to be made into molasses. My father raised 
cane, and we would look forward to popcorn balls made from 
the molasses in winter. They had a very special taste that I still 

This is the way it was living in the hills and valleys of west 
central Illinois when I grew up. If you are ever going to know, 
you will have to hear it from a few who are left, and still treas- 
ure these memories. 

If you visited our old home today, you would pass right 
over the bridge and up the sloping hill and come to the place 
where the little one-room village school house stood, and you 
would find it gone. The coal shed is gone, and the two privys 
are gone; one stood below the hill back of the school house and 
the other in the far corner of the school yard under a large 
shade tree. Even the old time village store across from the 
school is gone. It all went back to the land, with only a straggly 
tree left here and there to mark the spot where the children 
played, went to school and grew up. 


Lucius Herbert Valentine 

I started to the Bethel School located in Woodstock 
Township of Schuyler County in September, 1920. This one- 
room school house was built of brick with a coal house of wood 
and two brick outhouses, one for boys and one for girls. The 
yard had a ball diamond for baseball and three swings on steel 
posts set in concrete. 

I was a six-year-old without any kindergarten except in 
the garden and truck patch hoeing potatoes, cabbages, carrots 
and picking raspberries. My first teacher for two years was 
Edwin Johnson, who lived in Rushville and drove a one-horse 
road cart each day to our school, a distance of six miles. He 
taught me how to read and write. 

Of course, he had all eight grades to teach. I had two older 
brothers. Glen and Ed, and one older sister, Olive, in school. 
Each day in my first grade class Mr. Johnson would print a 
new word on the blackboard. If we knew the word, we told him 
and if we did not, he would give us a hint. The day he printed 
"mother" on the blackboard, no one knew what it was. The 
hint he gave us was "the one you love the most in the world." 
Every hand in my class went up, but when he called on the first 
one and the answer was "Santa Clause," which was wrong, all 
hands dropped but mine, because I knew who I loved most, and 
that word was "mother." He called on me, and proudly I said, 

When Christmas came, we had a large decorated Christ- 
mas tree and small gifts for each other. The worst thing was 
small metal candle holders with clips to hold them on the 
branches. These candles were lit during our Christmas play. It 
was beautiful but very dangerous. 

The big event of the year came one afternoon several 
weeks later when my oldest brother, Glen, stood up during 
school and said, "Teacher, the schoolhouse is on fire!" The fur- 
nace, which sat between the two front doors and the ceiling, 


was blazing around the chimney pipe. We all left the room, and 
Mr. John.son sent one student to the neighbor's, and a general 
alarm was put on the telephone line that Bethel School was on 

The well was about twenty feet from the front porch, so 
under the direction of Mr. Johnson, all of us kids formed a 
bucket brigade while my brother Glen got on the cone of the 
roof where the fire was and Jimmie McDonnel got on the roof 
of the front porch. Buckets of water were passed very rapidly, 
and by the time my dad, mother, and other neighbors got 
there, we had the fire out. The people seemed to have a social 
get-together and planned what to do to repair the roof and 

As everyone was ready to leave and we got to my dad's 
Model T car, my dad said, "You kids go in there and get your 
books and everything out of your desks, as that might reignite 
and burn down before morning." I ran with joy to get my 
things out, hoping it would and I wouldn't have to go anymore. 


Helen E. Rilling 

He was a man of good humor. The auctioneer at the one- 
room school box socials was an important person, a friend of 
the teacher, someone in the district or maybe even a neighbor. 
He created a lively atmosphere with his witty patter as he auc- 
tioned off the beautifully decorated boxes filled to overflowing 
with delicious food and eyed by brazen fellows and blushing 
young girls. 

Each fall the school in our district. Lost Grove, held a 
program and box social to raise money for special things like 
books and games. (Our library consisted of twenty-five books 
kept in an old fashioned glass-front bookcase. New bats and 
balls were always welcomed by the students.) The program. 

given by the pupils, consisted of recitations and songs. There 
was no piano at the school so the songs were very simple tunes. 
An appropriate skit was given, which took lots of practice by 
the pupils and was fun because they got out of lessons for a few 
days. One year the skit was The Thanksgiving Story with Pil- 
grims and Indians. The girls' mothers made long dresses of 
grey material and added white aprons and caps. For the Indi- 
ans the boys pulled feathers from their turkeys and chick- 

The parents and older boys helped the teacher make the 
stage props. They stretched baling wire between nails to make 
two dressing rooms and a stage. Unmatched floral curtains 
were hung from the wires on big safety pins for easy opening 
and closing. Parents brought extra lamps and lanterns so the 
big school room was well lighted. One chore always performed 
for the teacher by a director was to tie the bell rope in the hall 
up so high no adventurous guest would be temjjted to ring the 
bell while the festivities were going on. 

On the big night all twenty-two families in the district 
came with many others from the surrounding communities in 
buggies and farm wagons pulled by teams of horses. The 
horses were tied to the schoolyard fence. The wagons had 
bales of straw in them for the families to sit on. Blankets and 
cow robes were tucked in for warmth on the long ride home 
under the cold full moon. 

The most important part of the evening came when the 
auctioneer announced the time was ready for "high bidding." 
A long table was filled with beautiful boxes which had been 
kept hidden so no one could guess which box belonged to 
which girl or girls. The big boxes were for doubles. Two young 
men would bid for them and get to eat with two young ladies. 

The auctioneer lifted the first box. The room became 
still and everyone anxiously waited for the excitement to 

"What am I bid? This is heavy! Um! I can smell fried 
chicken and chocolate cake," he called out. 


The bidding was lively. Often there was rivalry between 
families or fellows. They would be determined that the box 
from their house would bring the highest bid. A double box 
often brought twenty-five dollars if the fellows really wanted 
to eat with certain young ladies. 

"Look at this! A cupie doll all tinseled up — isn't this 

The auctioneer made each box sound special. He talked 
up the good food he imagined to be hidden inside. He teased 
the girls, trying to find out who had brought certain boxes. If 
he could get a blush or giggles, he knew he was close to finding 
out the owner. Then the bidding went higher and higher. 

The boxes were made from cut-down cartons, hat and 
shoe boxes. Men's boot and shoe boxes were in demand as they 
were roomier. Extra pieces were glued or sewn on to make rep- 
licas of schools, houses, and even gazebos. Cupie dolls were a 
favorite, dressed in ruffled crepe paper and ribbons. Ribbon 
roses adorned many boxes. Tinsel was a favorite decoration 
and sparkled in the lamplight. 

When the auction was over, the young men claimed the 
box they had successfully bid on. They opened the lid and 
inside were the name or names of the girls who would be their 
supper partners. The girls sat at one of the larger school desks 
and the men perched on top of the desk in front of them. 

Inside was a delicious supper. It often consisted of fried 
chicken (if a late brood had hatched) or meat and cheese sand- 
wiches, deviled eggs, pickles, salads and fruit salads in orange 
cups cut into basket shapes. There often were bunches of pur- 
ple grapes, apples, and bananas. Wrapped in wax paper were 
generous slices of chocolate or yellow cake, cookies, and slabs 
of apple pie. As a surprise there might be squares of fudge or a 
bag of popcorn. 

While the box suppers were being eaten, parents and 
guests ate sandwiches, salads, pies and cakes. They visited 
with each other as families didn't get together often in those 
days. New neighbors were made welcome. The women 

exchanged recipes while the men bragged about the number of 
bushels of corn they could shuck in one day. 

This program was a special affair of the school year for 
the pupils and parents. But the box supper was the highlight 
for the older pupils and guests. From the first "What am I 
bid?" to the last cake crumb, the atmosphere was electric in 
our modest little one-room school that sat on the Morgan- 
Sangamon Countv line in the 1920's. 


Clara Rose McMillin 

I was up early, a chubby brown-haired child, excited and 
expectant, for this was my very first day of school. It was Sep- 
tember, 1929. My Grandma and Grandpa were coming to drive 
me to school in their Model T Ford. I wore my new brown- 
checked dress and shiny new shoes, and carried my brand new 
lunch box and pencil box with yellow pencils and a new eraser 
and a big red chief tablet. This was a day of adventure for a lit- 
tle country girl that had never been inside a schoolhouse 

Grandma took me inside the school house, told the 
teacher my name, waited until I was assigned a desk and felt at 
ease, and then she left. I was not afraid. In a few days I would 
be six years old, I was the oldest child in the family, and I 
looked forward to school and all of the children to play and 
make friends with. 

I don't remember too much about the first grade, but we 
had a primer with the story of the Gingerbread boy: "I am a 
Gingerbread boy, I can run, I can, I can." I missed a lot of 
school that year because I caught all the things going around 
because I had not been exposed to so many germs and colds 
before. When I came back to school after being sick, the 
teacher would take me aside and listen to me read and get me 


caught up with the class. Sometime she did this at recess or 
before school. Our teacher seemed to have plenty of time for 
each of us. 

By the time I was in the third grade, our school was 
expanded and we had two rooms, four grades to a room. There 
was no indoor plumbing at school or in our home, and we 
pumped our drink in our own cup at the pump in the school 

Our day started off with the Pledge of Allegiance and 
singing from The Gulden Book of Song. Each class came up to 
the front of the room to recite and read or work problems on 
the blackboard. We had recess at mid-morning and again in 
the afternoon, as well as a half-hour or so of play time at noon- 
time. We played games, tag or softball, and we had a merry-go- 
round to push and ride on. Our schoolyard was dusty and had 
rocks as well as grass to play on. In the winter we played in the 
basement. It was frustrating when we played ball. Two of the 
older children chose up sides. The best players were chosen 
first, and we dreaded being the last one to be called. 

Once I hurt my ankle on the schoolyard and Mrs. 
Wendler insisted on me taking off my shoes and socks and let- 
ting her see what was wrong. My mother had this rule that we 
always wash our feet before going to bed, but I had skipped the 
night before. Silly wasn't I? I was embarrassed for her to see 
my dirty feet, but after playing in our dusty school yard they 
would have been dirty anyway. 

My parents expected us to cooperate fully with the 
teacher, do our work, behave ourselves, etc. I don't remember 
ever getting a spanking at school, but I'm sure that if I had, 
another one would have been waiting when I got home. 

Remember the Palmer Method? We did all of those rows 
of letters over and over, pages and pages of them, every Friday 

The nicest things that I remember making for art was an 
oatmeal box made into a hanging pot for crepe paper sweet 
peas. We plastered our box with the strings of sweet peas hung 

out of the box; it was hung on the living room wall. To me those 
were the most gorgeous pink sweet peas ever. 

We had programs for our parents at Christmas and 
sometime in the spring. We had the usual songs and pieces, 
but we also had plays, and people would come and pay 10 or 25 
cents to see them. We always had a full house. This entailed a 
lot of work for the teacher, who was director, stage manager, 
etc. We had stage curtains to pull to change the scenes. We had 
to practice a lot, and some of our performances were quite 
good. There was no TV. for competition. Most of the parents 
and friends knew one another, and it was a night for socializ- 
ing, cake and coffee and entertainment. One time Mrs. 
Wendler came to our house on Sunday and sewed and fitted 
me with a beautiful ruffled crepe paper ballgown. At the pro- 
gram, a boy stood beside me in his best clothes, the lights were 
dimmed, and someone sat at a spinning wheel and sang 
"There's an old spinning wheel in the parlor." It was beautiful 
and we felt like glamorous stars. 

One day a lady named Abby Kneedler came to our school 
to start a drum and bugle corps. She had a big one in 
Collinsville, and hoped to have some of us join her group when 
we were older. The Collinsville group marched in parades and 
competed for prizes. I was thrilled when she said I had the 
"right lip" to play a bugle and was chosen to be in our group. 
We played and drilled and practiced until we were pretty good, 
and we marched in the school parade and drilled on the school 
grounds before dark on graduation night. We wore bright red 
tops and white skirts. I don't think any of us went on to the 
Collinsville group, but it was good training and discipline for 
us and put a little spice and excitement into our lives. 

I was fortunate to finish all eight grades in the same 
school. We went to Rock Jr. High in E. St. Louis for our finals. 
Some of us were very well prepared, and others plenty worried. 
It was a sad time, too, for soon we would be leaving our school, 
and friends and teacher. 

Graduation day came and we were all thrilled with our 


new clothes and the diploma that we had worked so hard for. 
We looked forward to high school, but some of our classmates 
were almost sixteen and would drop out of school. There were 
only ten or twelve of us, and we would get lost in the crowd at 
Collinsville Township High School. 

All of this was very important to me at that time, but 
when I think back I find I can't remember very many of my 
classmates' names. I know some of them have passed on, but 
the others, where are they? It makes me sad. I still live in the 
same area, but our paths never cross. 


Effie L. Campbell 

The year was 1925, and our family had been invited to a 
box-supper to be held at a country schoolhouse. I was six years 
old at the time, and, never having been to one, I asked what a 
"box-supper" was. "Well," I was told, "it's when you put supper 
in a box and sell it." That sounded a little bit crazy to me, but 
when I learned more about it, I began to be excited, especially 
when my two older sisters started hunting for shoe boxes to 
put the food in. Of course, in the home of nine people, two shoe 
boxes were not all that hard to find. 

The next thing on the agenda was getting together vari- 
ous items to trim the boxes with, and that meant searching in 
trunks and closets for wrapping paper saved from birthdays, 
and ribbons and flowers off of old hats. I think it was LaVeta 
who put a bunch of artificial cherries on her shoe box, and I 
thought they were beautiful. 

Since my sisters of sixteen and seventeen would be the 
only ones to have their box suppers put up for auction. Mom 
planned on taking a picnic basket of food for the rest of the 
family. But after they were finished with theirs, I wheedled the 
girls into trimming a small box for me. When it was done it was 

covered with shiny white paper with a large red paper heart 
pasted on top and smaller hearts glued along the sides. 1 loved 

But the boxes were only the first step in the prepara- 
tions. After they were decorated and set aside, it was time to 
bake the cakes — two of them, one Lady Baltimore and one 
Red Devil's food. My bother Virg and 1 "helped" by licking the 
frosting pans. We also filched any of the other food that wasn't 
being closely guarded. And there was a lot of food: pickles, 
bananas, sandwiches, potato salad, fried chicken, and any- 
thing else that could be carried picnic-style. So they wouldn't 
spoil, the fried chicken and the potato salad were made last of 
all. Mom was the one to add the finishing touches, because it 
was time for Clara and LaVeta to primp for the social. 

Both girls had beautiful complexions like our mother's, 
and since excessive make-up was frowned on by our father, 
they had to content themselves with a dab or two of face pow- 
der. All of us were blessed with wavy, black hair in those days, 
but the girls thought theirs needed extra crimping for the 
party. To achieve that end they held curling irons over the 
flame of a kerosene lamp and singed a few more curls. It was 
also the time when "spitcurls" were in fashion, and across 
their foreheads the girls each made a row of what looked a lit- 
tle like upside-down question marks. I don't remember the 
dresses they wore, but from pictures I've seen taken of them 
about that time, I'd say they wore what were known as "middy- 
tops." Those were dresses with sailor collars, tied at the neck- 
line with a bow, and with long-waisted tops that bloused about 
an inch or two below the start of the waistline. 

When it was time for use to go. Dad cranked up the fam- 
ily Dodge, and we scrambled for seats. We rode five in the 
back, four in the front, with Dad driving, me in the middle, and 
Mom on the other side holding Marcella (the baby) on her lap. 
I don't know where we put the boxes and baskets of food. They 
were crammed in somewhere as we drove the mile or so to the 
Edgewood schoolhouse. It set just across the road from my 


half-brother's farm — located exactly as the name implied— at 
the edge of a grove of trees. 

It's difficult for me to recall a scene of sixty years ago, but 
I do remember the schoolhouse with the light of lamps and 
lanterns shining through the dusk, and the cars of a vintage 
that would bring smiles today, driving up into the schoolyard. 
Inside, the one big room had been gaily decorated with Chi- 
nese lanterns and twisted ropes of red and white crepe paper. 
Everything was a stir of happy voices and children's laugh- 

If I close my eyes I can picture the boxes placed on a table 
down in front of the schoolroom. They represented all the col- 
ors of the rainbow and the creativity of every young woman 
there. Then the picture shifts, and the auctioneer (a local 
farmer) starts to hold the boxes up, one by one. "Who'll start 
the bidding? What am I bid for this box with the blue ribbon?" 

At times the bidding was lively, especially if two young 
men wanted to eat with the same girl. "One dollar! I'm bid one 
dollar. Who'll make it two?" And another man would call out, 
"Two dollars." Then the auctioneer would try for three, and so 
on, perhaps now and then selling one for as much as five dol- 

Years later, my sisters let me in on a secret: although the 
boxes were supposed to remain anonymous, a red flower, a cer- 
tain combination of colors, maybe a blue ribbon would speak 
the name of a girl. If that failed, signals were passed between a 
young lady and a certain young man. 

When the auctioneer came to my box I was so excited I 
could hardly sit still. But I doubt the sight of it affected anyone 
else the same way. Compared to the other boxes, mine was so 
small no self-respecting young man with a hearty appetite was 
likely to jump up and start bidding on it. The auctioneer made 
a crack about "good things come in small packages," and the 
crowd snickered. 

About then I grabbed my father's arm and shook it. 
"That's my box, Daddy! That's my box!" 

Faces wearing broad grins were turned in my direction, 
and I shrunk inside my cotton dress. I hadn't meant for my 
voice to carry so far. However, I felt better when my dad raised 
his hand and said, "I bid one dollar." 

Well of course, that ended the bidding on the little box 
with the paper hearts. The auctioneer rapped his homemade 
gavel on the desktop. "Sold to Tom Bowman for one dollar. 
Hope it won't make you fat, Tom." Naturally, I didn't under- 
stand the good-natured ribbing. I think my enthusiasm was all 
for the chocolate cake I knew was inside the box Dad carried 
back to me. I wanted to open it then and there, and it was tor- 
ture to be made to wait until the last box of food was sold. 

When it was time to eat, families gathered together near 
the front of the schoolhouse, while the young couples drifted 
to the back of the room. That way, a girl could share fried 
chicken with her best beau and indulge in a bit of flirting at the 
same time. According to custom, having bought my box. Dad 
was supposed to share it with me. But I expect it was a good 
thing Mom brought along her big picnic basket of food. 

We lost our father that next year, and I'm glad I have the 
memory of that one box supper while he was still with us. At 
the time, I thought I had to let him know which box was mine. 
But I guess he knew all along and never intended for me to 
share it with a stranger. 



Ruth R( liters 

At the Barnes School, east of Bushnell, the Christmas 
program was the highhght of the whole school year. It was a 
time when the church, which met in the schoolhouse, cooper- 
ated with the school to have a program. The women of the 
neighborhood would come in to help with the practice of plays 
and pieces and make costumes. Then a few days before the 
special night, the fathers would come in and build a wooden 
stage and hang curtains in front of it, on the wire which was 
always stretched across the front of the room. This was done 
twice during the year, at Christmas and again at Children's 
Day in June. 

The men of the neighborhood cut a large pine tree in the 
woods. It was brought into the schoolhouse and decorated 
with strings of popcorn, bangles and candles. On Christmas 
Eve, many gifts would be placed on and under the tree for the 
children of the community. 

The Christmas I remember especially was wonderful as 
well as terrifying, because the event required special prepara- 
tions at home, and one was very painful for my sister, Myrle, 
and myself. We had long hair, my sister's being blond and mine 
rather black, which we wore in long braids for everyday. How- 
ever, the night before the program, our hair was done in what 
was known as "doing your hair in rags." The hair was divided 
into strips, then wound around a length of a strip of cloth, then 
the cloth wrapped around the length of hair and cloth and tied 
tightly at the top next to the head. When we were finished and 
ready for bed, we looked as if we had long white sausages hang- 
ing from our heads. The next morning, amid howls and crying, 
the cloth was removed. Each roll was carefully wound around 
our mother's finger and let loose into the most beautiful long 
curls. Then our mother carefully dressed us in our finest 
clothes, which included a white fur neck piece and muff, gifts 
from our paternal grandparents the year before. 

When we were all ready and the grandpa we lived with 
had readied the farm sled with a bed of hay, blankets and 
warmed bricks, we made our way to the Barnes Schoolhouse. 
The windows of the building were ablaze with light, every oil 
lamp was lit and the tree candles were beautiful. The lit can- 
dles would be forbidden by law today. 

As soon as we arrived, we removed our caps, coats, mit- 
tens and boots and joined our schoolmates on the front 
benches reserved for us. Almost at once, I noticed two large 
dolls under the tree. I wondered who would get them. 

We spoke our pieces and took our parts in the plays. 
After the program, it was time to call names for each pupil and 
the little ones to recite the goodies from the magic tree. Myrle 
received her big doll first; then I knew who the best gifts on the 
tree were for. How wonderful! Myrle's doll was blond haired 
and dressed in blue silk, and mine was dark haired and dressed 
in pink. They had been placed under the tree as a surprise gift 
by a friend of our paternal grandparents. 

After careful examination by us and the exclamations of 
the other children, the dolls were packed in the tissue paper- 
lined boxes and stored away in the sled for the trip home. 

Not until our grandma and mother started to put coats 
away in the closet did they discover the extra coats were all 
gone. Our uncle's wonderful horsehair coat had also been 
stolen. The house was searched for other missing objects. 
What an unhappy ending for a beautiful evening. 

The coats were never found. A search was made in every 
ditch and gully in the area for days. None were found. To this 
day, the vandalism remains a mystery. However, the excite- 
ment and joy of the Christmas we received our beautiful dolls 
remain stamped in the memories of two aging women. 


Charlotte Young Magerkurth 

The old time teacher's duties or obhgations included one 
of which modern teachers, happily tor them, know nothing. 
This was called "boarding around." The terms of contract 
between all boards of directors and all teachers in the olden 
time included the clause "must board around." The duration 
was, by common consent and for the sake of convenience, a 
week at a time. In those days, I had to be very versatile to mesh 
with the cogs in the machinery of such a life. One week I would 
be blessed with a home in a refined family, where the children 
were quiet and obedient, where grace was said at a table and 
family worship was a feature of the morning and evening. The 
very next week fate would cast me into a family where the pro- 
fane oath and ribald conversation prevailed, where the chil- 
dren were rude impudent and defiant, where the men smoked 
intolerable tobacco in intolerable pipes, where the whiskey jug 
was hauled from beneath the bed morning and evening. The 
beds, the food, the drinking water were as different as the 
characters and habits of the people. But the successful teacher 
had to fit in all these homes like a halo on the head of a saint. If 
I hadn't, my occupation, like Othello's, would soon have been 

There was another side to this custom. Sometimes I was 
a burden on the back of a long-suffering community. At the 
Union District, I had deep snow and big obetreperous boys. 
Mr. Olson, a father of one of my boy scholars, was quite per- 
turbed with my discipline. One day Ole broke out with, "Aye 
thank yuh ban skule taycher lak hel; ya ban better tak other 
yumpin' yimmy yob, whair yuh don't ban left minded. Such 
mind yuh got all on one side, lak yug handle." 

Ole's speech made such a deep impression on my mind 
that I never forgot it. I used to go round repeating it to Brother 
Elon, and the pigs, and other animals. 

Our Union Schoolhouse was typical: a small frame, a 

wood-colored shack, surrounding a big drum stuve and. at the 
farther end, a raised platform with a pine desk, where the 
teacher sat enthroned. All round t he walls was a sloping board, 
used as a writing desk. The middle of the room contained pine 
benches without backs. Everywhere was pine and the resinous 
odor of new pine. Never a swab of paint, anywhere. 

Corporal punishment was common. I had a startling way 
of flinging a "ruler" at a recalcitrant student. The latter had to 
pick it up immediately and bring it directly to me, who would 
then more or less vigorously paddle the open hand with the 
"ruler." Sometimes the punishment was to stand facing the 
wall in the corner of the room, until released. Sometimes it 
was to hold a book out at arm's length, till relieved. Once I sent 
Bill for a bundle of willow sprouts, sarcastically remarking 
that I would show Bill what they were for when he returned. I 
scorned the trifling twigs he brought, and furiously flung 
them from a window. 

"They're too small, I tell you. Fetch big ones, a yard 
long," I shouted. 

Bill murmured that he would as soon wait for these little 
ones to grow, but I bowsed at Bill, and he went. 

Bill selected sprouts a yard long, carefully ringing them 
round and round with his keen knife. I was in such a rage when 
Bill returned that I grabbed all three at once and brought 
them down on Bills' shoulders, the switches instantly flew 
into forty pieces, the school broke into an uproar of mirth, and 
Bill flew like "forty." 



Mary Cecile Stevens 

My thoughts return to the horse-and-buggy or horse- 
and-bobsled days when I traveled with my parents and seven 
brothers and sisters over country dirt roads to our enjoyable 
community meetings in the one-room rural school. 

These meetings were attended by parents, children, rela- 
tives and friends, and sometimes there was not standing room 
in the building. 

One of the most memorable occasions was the box sup- 
per, usually taking place during the fall months. This was held 
to raise money for the teacher to purchase needed supplies. 
Eight grades were taught in the school, so the girls ranged in 
ages from six to sixteen. At the recess and noon periods the 
teacher assisted in planning the decorating boxes, as to the 
color of paper, designs, ribbons and bows of contrasting color. 
The plans were discussed openly, but the making was done 
secretly at home. 

Often young married ladies enjoyed decorating boxes, 

After the program was presented, the chief concern was 
for the auctioneer to come forward to auction the boxes to the 
highest bidder. Young unmarried men glanced at each other as 
if questioning which was the teacher's box. Each was anxious 
to buy it. Was it to eat with the teacher, whom they thought the 
popular one of the evening, or was it the honor of being able to 
pay the greatest price? Sometimes envy and ill feelings were 
astir. Soon that was over, and all enjoyed a splendid evening. 

The boxes sold from one dollar up to twenty dollars, and 
nearly always the teacher's box sold at the highest price. In 
these boxes was a hearty lunch consisting of fried chicken, 
sandwiches, cake, cookies, fruit, pie, and other delicacies. 

The meeting during the winter was the Christmas pro- 
gram. Since the school had no music teacher, the recitations. 

dialogues, and songs were directed by the teacher. 

Again, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts crowded 
the building to hear the children speak and sing. 

Were the relatives proud? You know they were, even if 
mistakes were made and the children's voices went a bit awry 
with the thrill of Christmas. Perhaps the sleigh bells in the 
horses ringing out the merry tunes coming to the school 
inspired us to sing in earnest. 

A tree cut from the nearby woods found its place in the 
building. Only the glow of the wall side lamps gave the tree its 
light amidst strings of cranberries and pop corn. 

Santa Clause came with gifts, candy, and oranges, and 
following a lunch for all, the party came to a close. 

The horses covered with blankets and all families tucked 
in under blankets in the bob sleds and sleighs started home on 
those frosty nights. 

During the latter part of winter we celebrated patriotic 
days and Valentine's Day. Again, a program was presented by 
the students directed by the classroom teacher. How we 
enjoyed holding our small flags and singing to celebrate 
Abraham Lincoln and George Washington's birthdays. Many 
times the parents and others joined with us on the program. 

Then from a pretty decorated box valentines were 
passed from one to another. These were made from discarded 
wall paper and scraps of pretty paper found in the home. 
These were not revealed until that night to surprise an espe- 
cially admired school mate. 

Baskets of food were opened and all old and young par- 
took of a delicious lunch. After good-nights, with the lights 
extinguished from the lamps and the coals in the cast iron 
stove fading away, we went to our mode of transportation, 
bringing to a close of another delightful community meeting. 

The final meeting of the year was a daytime gathering — 
the picnic and the winding of the May pole. The school year 
consisted of eight months or less, so in April the school closed 
for the summer. 


The picnic was on the school grounds and attended by 
parents, relatives and friends. Baskets of food were spread on 
table cloths on the ground for the picnic dinner. 

After dinner, eyes turned in the direction of t he May pole 
to be wound, but not yet: all had to enter the building to see the 
children's display of penmanship (penmanship in that day 
was very competitive work), art work, written stories, poetry, 
and maps displayed on chalk boards and walls. We children 
enjoyed seeing our parents looking at our work. 

Our school room was decorated with spring flowers 
found in the woods: violets, bluebells, jack-in-the pulpit, for- 
sythia, and dog wood. This was done by the pupils and teacher. 
Gathering spring flowers was an important part of the last day 
of school. 

Soon the teacher began the sound of music from the 
pump organ brought in from a family for this special day. The 
girls dressed in pretty white dresses and the boys in white 
shirts and knee trousers took places at the May pole, which 

had been cut from a tree in the woods and set by the fathers. 
Crepe paper ribbon of various colors trailed from the pole as 
we prepared to celebrate the return of spring. 

As the organ music sounded, we wove the ribbons as we 
walked around the pole until the May pole was covered with 
the bright colors. We sang spring time songs to complete this 
special festival. 

After visiting relatives and friends, we called this a day— 
our final day of school until September. Farewells were said 
and we were homeward-liound, some by buggy and others 

Our teacher was an important person in these commu- 
nity meetings. Her programs brought families together, and 
brought out the talent of the children. 

What could have been a better method of sustaining that 
community relationship than these meetings in the one-room 
rural school? 

IX transportation and 



The present generation of senior citizens, especially 
those who are 75 and older, has experienced the revolutionary 
transformations in American life that have occurred because 
of great developments in transportation and communication. 
So thoroughly has the world been changed by automobiles, 
airplanes, radios, motion pictures, and television, that it 
seems incredible that vast numbers of older people can recall 
when these first came into our culture. 

The automobile has had the greatest impact. First 
viewed as a novelty and then as a kind of recreational vehicle, 
it soon became an indispensable part of the American way of 
life. The automobile promoted the development of suburbs 
and hastened the decline of small towns. It made people more 
dependent upon banks, which supplied automobile financing, 
and less dependent upon their neighbors, who could be 
bypassed for more distant resources. It fostered individual- 
ism, and it encouraged materialism. It quickly became a sym- 
bol of modern life, and it eventually became a leading cause of 

Three of the memoirs in this section of the book recall 
experiences with automobiles that could only have occurred 
when they were something new. "My First Auto Ride" by 
Helen Alleyne Taylor re-creates the thrill that millions of 
Americans once had when they went for their first ride. "Hard 
Times When Papa Drove the Car" by Eva Baker Watson cen- 
ters around a driver who made an uneasy transition from the 
horse and buggy to the automobile. And "Touring, 1920s 
Style" by Bernadette Tranbarger describes a family vacation 
back when travel by car was a great adventure. 

Some of the memoirs in this section depict work that 
related to transportation, for that too was part of the experi- 
ence of some senior citizens. Perhaps the most significant con- 
struction work of the century, in terms of its widespread 

impact, was the building of hard roads back in the Twenties. 
When small towns were finally reached by the Illinois system 
of paved roads, local people sometimes celebrated with a 
dance on the new road surface, which symbolized the coming 
of a new era. But ironically, hard roads only hastened the 
decline of many small towns, for local residents then had bet- 
ter access to larger places. "When the Hard Road Went Past 
Our Farm" by Margaret L. Cockrum not only reflects the 
process of road construction but also one girl's experiences 
during the memorable time when the hard road came in. 

Certainly the biggest single construction project in the 
Illinois area during the early twentieth century was the build- 
ing of the Hamilton-Keokuk Power Dam. That project also 
had an impact on Mississippi River transportation, since it 
allowed large boats to easily navigate a stretch of rapids that 
had been a problem since pioneer days. H. D. Ewing recalls the 
world-famous project, which he worked on more than seventy 
years ago. 

When senior citizens write about communication devel- 
opments, they commonly focus on the telephone — not that it 
was invented in our century, but the nature and quality of tele- 
phone service has changed dramatically since they were 
young. In particular, the use of party lines and the importance 
of the operator are factors which gave early telephone use a 
distinctive character, as pointed out by Hazel D. Frank and 
Clarissa M. Jahn. In other words, telephones once connected 
people in ways that they no longer do. 

The editors were surprised to find Nellie Roe's memoir, 
"Television Comes to Mt. Sterling," among the manuscripts 
available for this book, since TV seems so recent, and many 
who are not yet senior citizens can recall when it first became a 
part of our lives. But the memoir proved to be a fine piece that 
presented the topic very well. And it reminds us all that televi- 
sion has done more than any other medium to give the Ameri- 
can people a shared experience. 


The memoirs in this section of 7b/e.s /ron; Tlco /?/i>t7-.s /V made the early decades of the century seem like another 

provide views of transportation and communication develop- world. No wonder these experiences were memorable, 
ments that have changed the lives of all Americans and have j i p ji j. 



Alleyne Taylor 

I was sixteen in the year 1910. My folks were farmers and 
plain country folk, and neither we nor any of our neighbors 
had yet purchased an automobile. 

My cousin and her husband lived a few miles from us, 
and we thought they were a little prone to show off, but we 
were all excited when we heard they had bought an auto. Need- 
less to say, I was a little envious as I didn't see why my father 
couldn't be the first to buy one, but that didn't matter if only 
they would invite me to take a ride. Sure enough, it wasn't long 
until my sister and I received an invitation to take a Sunday 
afternoon ride in their new Rio. 

What a beauty it was: cherry red with yellow stripes, 
room for three passengers, and no top. 

My sister and I could hardly wait for Sunday to come. It 
was springtime. May to be exact, and the weather was uncer- 
tain. It was an exciting time for all the family. "Should we wear 
our Easter Hats or simply tie scarfs over our heads?" Mother 
thought we should wear our hats as everyone would be looking 
at us as we passed by. Father was certain that we couldn't keep 
them on as he wasn't sure just how fast the new auto would go. 
We finally compromised by wearing our hats with the scarfs 
tied over them. 

At two o'clock we were ready and we boarded the beauti- 
ful new car. It was a perfect day, but we soon found out that we 
had to hold on to our hats with both hands. Before long 
Walter, the driver, called out, "We're hitting thirty miles an 
hour!" What excitement! That was when I let loose and my hat 
went sailing through the air. I hollered, "Stop!" Of course, it 
took a few minutes at the magnificent speed of 30 to come to a 
stop, but he did and backed up the Rio to where my hat lay in 
the road. 

Again we started up. Soon we heard a sound like a hiss, 
and Walter pulled off the road. We all piled out and got the 

necessary tools from under the back seat, and we each took 
turns pumping up the back tire. 

My best dress looked a sight and my hat was ruined, but 
we had fun. 

It wasn't long until my father bought a car, and like my 
cousin's, ours was only used in nice weather. When winter 
came the air was released from the tires, and it was stored in a 
large building we called "the carriage house." It was called that 
because it had been built to house the buggy and surrey and 
was also a storage place for harness and tools. The buggy was 
relegated to the driveway of the barn to make room for our new 
five-passenger automobile. 

In the years that followed, I had many wonderful experi- 
ences on afternoon drives, but I'll never forget my very first 
auto ride, back when cars were still uncommon and going for a 
ride was an adventure. 


Eua Baker Watson 

Even though to many, depending on horsedrawn vehicles 
for transportation taxed the patience and was considered 
hard. Papa was satisfied with our buggy and his docile team of 
gentle mares. Bird and Crystobel. He understood them and 
they understood him. And it was a comfortable rate of speed 
for traveling, he thought. 

But all around us people were buying cars, and everyone 
knows that peer pressure like that is a most powerful sales 

So, while it seemed traitorous to replace those faithful 
servants with a noisy, mechanical contraption that sputtered, 
jumped, then died at the slightest provocation. Papa decided 
(with considerable help from a friend who had a new job sell- 
ing cars ) to buy a Baby Overland. And the old team was put out 


to pasture. That was when Papa began to face what really was 
hard times. 

Now one thing that made this transition so difficult for 
him was the fact that Papa was a schoolteacher. He was used to 
making the rules instead of being, himself, subject to a rigid 
code set by — of all things — a machine. Papa's forte was books, 
not automation. 

We four children, however, hailed this new acquisition 
with unbridled enthusiasm, the exuberance of which probably 
tried Papa's patience. He tended to view the car as a mixed 
blessing, if not a downright threat. 

He was blessed (or cursed, as we children saw it) with an 
overly-cautious nature. Old habits died hard with him. 

To stop the car simply by taking one's foot off the accel- 
erator and applying the brake seemed a risky business to him. 
So, with the caution of the man who wears both a belt and sus- 
penders, he always accompanied these machine-dictated 
maneuvers with a slight pull on the steering wheel and a time- 
honored word, "Whoa-oa-oa!" 

Our new Baby Overland was a four-door "touring car," all 
black and shiny — sheer luxury. It had isinglass-windowed cur- 
tains folded under the back seat for rainy times. 

If it began to rain while we were out riding Papa would 
stop the car and some of us would jump out to put up those 
curtains. There was usually a bit of an argument about which 
edge was the top and which curtain went where. This mush- 
roomed sometimes into quite a production, damp and steamy. 
Eventually, though, the curtains were snapped in place and 
the installers all back in the car, dripping wet and not too pop- 
ular with the only-a-little-drier passengers huddled inside. 

We kept our elegant conveyance in what had been the 
Buggy Shed. I insisted that it was befitting our automated 
status — besides being more precise — to call it "The Garage," 
now. But my old habits, too, died hard and even my purist pos- 
turing couldn't prevent my lapsing now and then into still call- 
ing it "Buggy Shed." Papa straddled the fence and called it 

"The Car Shed." 

Papa's learning to drive was fraught with jerks and killed 
engines. Driving uphill in Pope County (which is all uphill or 
downhill) entailed, of course, the shifting of gears at exactly 
the right moment. Choosing that moment so as not to stall the 
car was almost Papa's undoing, with many killed engines and 
backward rolls. The fact that most roads were rough didn't 

Once we were going up an especially rocky, steep hill with 
Papa and Mama in front, us four children in the back. We 
neared the crest and it was time to go into low gear to ease us 
over the top. Papa, alas, unintentionally shifted into reverse. 

As we began the headlong (make that BACKlong) dash 
down the hill, Papa aimed for the footbrake but, to compound 
his mistake, hit the accelerator, instead. Our speed was spec- 

During that ten-second hour that we shot backwards no 
one uttered a sound. We landed with a jolt in a ditch, miracu- 
lously right-side-up. 

Mama was the first to recover her voice. Not for a 
moment doubting that the worst had happened to us, she 
shrieked, "HOW MANY ARE KILLED?" 

A quick count revealed everyone alive. 

I can't help but think, on looking back, that Papa never 
ceased to long for the relaxing speed and dependability of the 
good old horse and buggy days. I see now that it was only his 
amazing courage that kept him driving until my brothers were 
old enough to take the wheel. It was, indeed, a giant step for 
him, and the car was something, I think, with which he never 
quite made his peace. 



Bernadette Tranbarger 

It was in t he spring of 19'23 when I iirst took a long t rip by 
automobile. Mother informed me we were going to visit her 
aunt. My parents and my baby brother, myself, and my 
Granny and Gramps were going in Gramp's 1922 Model T 
Ford all the way to Arkansas. 

While the men folks got the car ready, Gran and Mother 
packed clothes, food, and bedding. I was busy, too, trying on 
my new wardrobe. I had a special tan khaki skirt and middy 
blouse, patterned after my mother's outfit. 

Gramps took his large canvas tent. It was so large it 
would accommodate a 9 x 12 rug. So we took along a rug, an old 
faded one. We also took two full-sized mattresses, my broth- 
er's crib mattress, and a couch pad for me on top of the car. 
Granny supplied pots and pans, carefully tinned sugar and 
salt, even some flour. There were fresh eggs, a slab of bacon, 
some of Granny's prized home-canned fruits and vegetables, 
the huge granite coffee pot and two big black skillets. 

When the car was loaded. Dad told Mother it weighed 
just twice as much as originally. My father went around kick- 
ing each wheel to see that the tires were still up. 

I sat in the back seat with Gran and Gramps. There was 
just enough room, with the suitcases piled around us. 

In the front seat mother sat next to Dad in the 
navigator's seat. She held my 2'/2 year-old brother on her lap. 

The day was warm and sunny. To pass the time we played 
a game called Zit. The one who saw the most white houses won 
the game. 

At first the road was familiar. Shortly after noon we 
crossed the big Mississippi River and then Mother told me we 
were in Missouri. Soon the road became unfamiliar and 
Mother read directions from a bright red book that Father had 
purchased for the trip. One direction said, "Proceed several 
miles south until you come to a huge oak tree on the right hand 

sideoftheroad. At the next crossroad after that turn west. . . . 

We made good time and stopped only long enough to rest 
under an inviting shade tree and feast upon meat sandwiches 
that Gran had packed. Of course, we had to stop at given inter- 
vals to service the car. At each place the radiator needed water 
and the tires were pumped up a bit. Occasionally Dad put in an 
extra quart of oil which he had brought with him. The gleam- 
ing black car fast became coated with dust so thick you could 
write your name on it. Only rarely did we come upon paved 
roads — "patches of black-top," as they were called. 

By mid-afternoon our road became Highway 9. We were 
all kept busy hunting the square white signs emblazoned with 
bold black 9's. These were the first highway markers I had ever 
encountered. My little brother called out suddenly, "There's 
Bumber Bine!" From then one "There's Bumber Bine" 
became our rallying call. There were no special posts for these 
highway markers. They could be found tacked to a split -rail 
fence, a tree, or even a shed or barn. 

As evening approached we pitched our tent in a nice 
meadow, and enjoyed our first hot meal cooked on the little 
portable coal-oil stove. There was even spring water close by. 

What a beautiful night it was! I remember a big yellow 
moon and only a few wispy clouds. 

While the men got the mattresses down. Mother and I 
strolled around and looked at our dirty Model T Then into the 
thick yellow dust on the back of the car she playfully printed, 
"Little Rock or Bust." 

Everyone was tired, so soon the beds were made up and 
we were fast asleep. 

A murmur of voices awakened me, but it was too dark to 
be getting-up time. And why were the grown-ups all standing 
around whispering? Just then a dribble of water washed over 
my face. I looked up at the ridge-pole of the tent, and saw water 
dripping along the pole. There was no more sleeping that 
night. New leaks appeared everywhere. The tarpaulin wasn't 
sufficient to cover the bedding. The food box was leaking. 


Finally, it was decided to pack up before everything was 

We attempted to find our highway in the gloomy morn- 
ing light. The farther south we drove, the less black-top we 

Now the mud roads were slippery, and several times we 
skidded. Once we had to be pushed out of a ditch by some other 

We finally stopped at a little village for breakfast. The 
natives didn't take too well to "furriners" and Mother got very 
upset because she had to pay 40 cents for a quart of milk for 
the baby. 

We continued our way deep into the Missouri hills, later 
to become well-known as the Ozarks. 

At that time Missouri was trying to build a fine highway 
system, and that necessitated much grading and filling. There 
is no mud like Missouri gumbo. We made little headway and 
spent much time pulling and pushing others and being helped 
in return. At one place a farmer had a team of mules and a log- 
chain. He devoted his whole day to pulling out hapless travel- 

By evening it became apparent we wouldn't be sleeping 
out that night. The rain kept coming in a steady drizzle. Also, 
there was something broken and dangling under the car. 

We limped slowly into a little town built around a square. 
It was dusk and we were in a strange place, hungry, and very 

Just off the square my father spotted a rambling building 
from which hung a sign "Lodging and Board." There was but 
one room available, and my father quickly signed for it. 

Our family, wet and bedraggled, struggled up a steep 
staircase to find our room. When I walked into it, I believed I 
had found a fairy place. It was the most opulent room I had 
ever imagined. There was ruby-red wallpaper decorated with 
gold medallions. There was a high, shiny brass bed with a red 
velvet spread, an ornate, golden-oak dresser with brass 

drawer-pulls, and a big leather Morris chair. On the floor lay 
an Axminster carpet splashed all over with red roses. From 
the ceiling hung a huge chandelier with four frosted light bulbs 
that winked in their brass holders. 

We were very hungry, so after a hurried clean-up, all of us 
trooped down the stairs to the dining room. There were two 
long tables, and seated around were other hungry and weary 
tourists. There were no menus, so all the guests ate the same 
meal — baked ham, sweet potatoes, grits, and delicious pies 
and cakes. 

After supper Gramps and Dad went to find help to fix 
our ailing Ford. No garage was open, but a kind blacksmith 
offered the use of his forge, and Gramps began to mend the 
broken tie- rod. 

The rest of us returned to our hotel-room. Gran and my 
brother crawled in the huge, high bed and were soon fast 
asleep. But Mother was strangely quiet. She just sat in the 
morris chair and looked out upon the drizzly night. I sat down 
beside her and took her hand. I told her what a wonderful trip 
we were having and asked if she didn't just love the room! She 
started to cry and hugged me to her and said how lonely she 

"You see," she explained, "this room is the Honeymoon 
Suite!" I never could decide why she cried about that. 

The men finally came back, and everyone had a rest, 
even though some had to sleep sitting up. 

Next morning was clear. After a good breakfast, we were 
ready to go again. My father said we were not too far from the 
Arkansas state line. When we crossed that mysterious "line" 
the road would be paved all the way to the state capital. 

Everyone looked the car over carefully to check on our 
soggy baggage. When Mother and I got to the back of the car, 
"Little Rock or Bust" was still visible. The overhanging mat- 
tresses had protected it. 

With a little sigh, my mother smiled at me, and then very 
carefully under that dusty slogan she wrote: 

"We Busted." 



Margaret Sneeden Cockrum 

It was my privilege, (and sometimes, my source of annoy- 
ance) to see the beginnings of a part of the American highway 
system, as it was buih between the Illinois and Mississippi riv- 

People of the early highway departments apparently 
decided that it would be economically useful to have a concrete 
highway connecting Pittsfield with Alton and St. Louis. Per- 
haps they were considering that it would be simpler to take the 
hogs that were our principal farm product in trucks to the 
St. Louis stockyards, rather than loading them in horse- 
drawn wagons to haul to Dory McEvers' boat dock down at 
Montezuma, and thence ship them by boat to St. Louis. And 
they must have hoped that farmers might travel to the big city 
occasionally, and spend their money there. In any event, it was 
decided that a new highway was to be started from Route 36 at 
Detroit, just east of Pittsfield, and then go through the vil- 
lages of Milton, Pearl, Kampsville, and Hardin, there to cross 
the Illinois river on a bridge, and so on to Alton. We lived on a 
farm on the north end of that road, between Detroit and 

First, there was the excitement when the road was 
approved. Now we could drive without chains all winter long if 
we needed to go to town for bread and coffee! Now we could 
safely expect to travel in the car in winter, even if we did have 
to put the side curtains up! It was a simple matter of cranking 
the car while Mama minded the gas pedal, instead of chasing a 
reluctant horse and harnessing him to the buggy; and besides, 
the car made somewhat better time than the horse and buggy. 

The next step came when several surveyors with their 
transits appeared, marking the right-of-way with official- 
looking stakes with little white flags on them. These were duly 
examined by us inhabitants when the surveyors were gone for 
the evening. ("Now why did they init this stake here? Why not 

over there?") 

Then came a road grader, huge in our eyes, and a dozen 
or so men with horses and wagons to haul the dirt away. The 
horses lasted several days — until they gave out and were 
replaced by mules from Missouri. And in addition, there were 
people to take out the trees, with saws and axes and blasting 
caps. There was one gorgeous giant elm that we all hated to 
lose, a good twelve feet in diameter, just to the east of and 
across the road from our next door neighbors. Then, as now, it 
would have been unthinkable to bend the road in order to 
spare the tree. The patch of violets and ferns (and many 
another patch of violets and ferns) beside the road not far 
from our house was turned over and buried by the road grader, 
and the trumpet vines to the south also fell as its victim. 

The twenty-foot right of way bared an immense amount 
of red clay. We travelled over that for interminable wet and 
sticky months in the horse and buggy that we had hoped to dis- 
continue using. This period, of a muddy clay swamp that 
passed for a road, lasted far longer than we had envisioned. 
There was a level one-half mile stretch in the prairie just south 
of Detroit that especially defied taming and became known far 
and wide as "the Detroit mudholes," with immense water- 
filled ditches and trenches cris-crossing the right-of-way in 
patterns that defied reason. This made it necessary for those 
of us south of the Detroit mud-hole to hitch up the buggy or 
maybe the surrey and detour by an almost abandoned road 
two miles to the east, which was called "The Lizzie Sanderson 
Road." Since it was springtime, this had the advantage of tak- 
ing us past a hillside grove of blooming white locust trees. I dis- 
covered that it was more interesting to fold my sixty-pound 
self into the box at the back of the buggy meant for hauling 
groceries, and since I was eight and had reached a certain 
amount of discretion, I was allowed to use this space, some- 
what to the astonishment of the occupants of buggies which 
we met. ".She wants to sit there", my parents explained. 

Such were the days before the highway was finished. But 


at last the roadwasgraded, and dried out, and levelled; and the 
machine which actually built the concrete pavement came, 
with its accompanying dusty gravel trucks. There were iron 
rails placed at the sides to contain the wet cement, and there 
was a kind of wide canvas belt which was pulled back and forth 
across the new cement to make it level. 

After that, the men and machinery departed, and there 
was a period of "mustn't touch" when we drove at the side of 
the road but were allowed to walk on it if we chose. At this time, 
I was allowed — oh, marvellous privilege — a pair of roller 
skates, in spite of the Depression and the mortgage on the 
farm. For several months, before the road was open to traffic, I 
was one of the most fortunate of children — with a new pair of 
roller skates, and a roller rink twelve feet wide and five miles 


Vera Smith Hawks 

As an innocent bystander, I became a very interested 
spectator in the historical events of building a railroad. I cher- 
ish these childhood memories of watching a new business 
being born. It was the year 1910, and I was ten years old. 

The Walsh Brothers from Rock Island were building a 
railroad from Rock Island to Monmouth, known as The Rock 
Island Southern Interurban. 

The little community of Gilchrist, where I lived, was 
greatly affected, and the summer of 1910 was filled with 
events, both happy and sad for me. 

It was very interesting to see farm fields change into 
right-of-way, with the surveying and grading of the land. 
Horses, with men manipulating the slip-shovels, seemed to 
perform miracles as we watched. 

To make it more exciting, a camp site was established in a 

pasture directly across the road from our home. The construc- 
tion workers, a teamster, and a cook lived there for many 
weeks. But even more thrilling, a two story tent was erected in 
the shade of a pine tree in our own front yard to provide tem- 
porary living quarters for some members of the Walsh family. 
They hung a rope swing from a limb on one of our apple trees 
for their son, Edwin, and gave me and my three sisters the 
privilege of using it. They also supplemented the Sears Roe- 
buck catalog in our privy with rolls of bath tissue, and sprin- 
kled lime generously. 

Along the right-of-way nearby, railroad ties were stacked 
in piles of equal height and in a neat row. Some creative minds 
saw this as a challenge, and as if by magnetism other kids in 
the neighborhood joined in testing their ability to climb to the 
top of a stack, then proceed running, leaping, and jumping on 
and on from one stack to the next, back again and again. On 
our final run to the last stack, I did not quite make it to the top, 
but caught my toes under the top layer and fell backwards. 
Such a tragic finish, on that Good Friday evening, to a delight- 
ful game. 

Since I was unable to walk, one of the big boys, Thomas 
McWhirter, attempted to carry me home. I said that it hurt 
too much to dangle my leg against him, but I'm not sure that 
was the real reason, or whether I was just embarrassed to be 
carried by a boy. I do know that I didn't put my arm around his 
neck to make it a little easier. Whichever, I insisted that he put 
me down. With my older sister, Gladys, and his sister, Agnes, 
on either side of me, I hopped home, about a city block away. 

Neighbors and Grandma Smith gathered around, specu- 
lating, "Does that lump on her shin mean that the bone is bro- 
ken?" and to me, "See if you can wiggle your toes." I could 
wiggle, but it still hurt. One of the two telephones in the neigh- 
borhood was in Grandma's house, next door. From there Dr. 
Miles was called and he came promptly. His diagnosis was: 
"Both bones in the lower leg are broken." However, because he 
had not been informed as to the nature of our needs, he had to 


drive back to Viola, two miles away, with horse and bufjgy to 
get proper supplies. 

A good neighbor, Maime Jones, held me down on the 
couch, screaming with pain, while the doctor pulled those 
bones into position for knitting. Without benefit of x-ray, hos- 
pital facilities, or nurse, he set the bones perfectly. Because of 
the swelling, he could only bandage it that night, and he came 
back Easter morning to put my left leg in a cast. 

I lay in bed for five weeks, using a bedpan, being 
reminded always by visitors that my leg might grow crooked if 
I moved it. I complained that the covers hurt my toes so some- 
one in the camp made a frame of half-hoops to put over my leg. 
The cook brought special desserts, and others brought a whole 
box of chocolates and bon bons. 

Mama and my sisters colored Easter eggs on Saturday, 
and as the finished with each color, those eggs were brought to 
my bed so I could pick out the one most beautiful. Some 
friends also brought special eggs and I kept them in a beautiful 
bowl for a year. They were not disposed of any too soon. Six 
fluffy, yellow chicks complete with birdcage came from the 
John Noble family. Picture post cards were in vogue at that 
time, and the mailman brought enough to fill an album. 

From my window I could see the horse-drawn traffic go 
by. I watched blue jays battle for their nesting places, robins 
come and go, feeding their nestlings in our pine trees. I played 
a game during April showers by selecting raindrops at the top 
of the pane, and guessing which one would be the first to reach 
the bottom. 

Finally I did get out of bed with crutches to use, but I was 
not experienced enough to get to school for the last day of the 
school term, so my dear daddy carried me. As I sat on my half 
of a double seat, at a double desk, my seat mate was afraid to 
move and so was I. That all changed quickly, and I became very 
proficient with my crutches. I walked a mile to Sunday School, 
and learned to keep up with other kids at play, which led to 
another near tragedy. 

Our Voss cousins, Vernon and Harold, were at our house 
to play one day. Their mother. Aunt Jessie, came by with horse 
and buggy, and I went leaping out to ask her to let the boys stay 
longer. With my good foot I landed on a broken bottle at the 
roadside and almost cut off my big toe. Such a set-back, liter- 
ally! Not a leg left to stand on! I sat in a chair and moved about 
only when somebody carried me. People talked about my hav- 
ing proud flesh in that toe which would have to be burned out, 
but without stitches or hospitalization, and with loving care 
and home remedies, I did heal. 

However, not to be left out of the action, I got myself into 
trouble again. While Mama was hanging clothes on the line, 
Gladys and an older cousin, Bessie, were putting a blanket out 
of the rinse water through the wringer— the kind that had a 
handle on the right side to turn and activate the rollers. Being 
eager to help, I tried to straighten the folds of the blanket, but 
instead, I got my arm caught in the cogs of the wringer, tearing 
the flesh to the bone. I carried the scars to those cogs for many 

Progress on the railroad continued. One day, as I sat in 
the shade, with sisters and friends, the teamster stopped with 
horse and buggy and asked me to go with him to see the 
piledrivers at work building a bridge over Edwards River. I 
answered immediately, "Mama won't let me go." Alas! During 
my next seventy-five years I haven't had an opportunity to see 
how a pile-driver works, and that was before the time when it 
was not safe for a little girl to be alone with a friendly man. 

When the track was all laid, steam engines carried traf- 
fic, while the high-line was being constructed to provide the 
electricity. During this time I went to Matherville to visit my 
Grandma Adams for a few days. I experienced a great thrill on 
my way back home. As I watched for my train at the depot, a 
brilliantly lighted coach came into view, and I boarded that 
electric-powered car on its first run from Rock Island to 
Monmouth. I was dazzled by the beauty of it all. We were still 
using kerosene lamps in our homes. 


Life in Gilchrist became more interesting. The south- 
bound and northbound cars met and passed at this point. Cars 
on the spur track came from Aledo. Al Hefhn, with his horse- 
drawn hack, brought passengers from Viola, and picked up 
those who were returning to Viola. At least seven daily trips 
each way were scheduled to carry passengers on business or 
pleasure trips; motor coaches carried freight. All of this serv- 
ice became part of our daily existence. I and several other stu- 
dents commuted for four years to Aledo High School or 
William and Vashti College. My parents accepted the oppor- 
tunity to open a lunch room in the depot at Gilchrist, and had 
several years of good business. 

With the advent of automobiles, these short journeys 
could be planned by individuals to suit their specific needs. 
Traffic on The Rock Island Southern diminished gradually 
and was finally less than enough to be profitable. I was grown, 
married, and had left Gilchrist by that time, but if I had known 
when the last run was made, it would have saddened me to see 
this once-flourishing business, which played a part in my life, 
come to an early end. 


Lluyd M. Home 

To those of us who have lived many years in the Quad 
Cities, the great river that runs through our towns holds us in a 
state of awe and reverence because of its natural beauty, its 
great power and sense of permanence, and its recreational and 
commercial importance. 

Much has been written about its history and about the 
days of the riverboat. In my own time the ferry boat between 
Rock Island and Davenport was very important during those 
days when the river was free of ice. 

The ferry boat was built in Rock Island at the Kahlke 

Boat Yards and was owned and operated by W. J. (Billy) 
Quinlan. Logically it was named and called the W. J. 

When I see pictures of the old boat, memories of the 
'Billy Q' and of the sights and sounds of the river come to mind 
out of first-hand experience. 

In Quinlan's navy, perhaps I belonged to "special serv- 
ices" as a non-combatant on the upper deck playing in the 
dance band. Older people, "plus 70's," will remember that 
Tony Catalino's Jazz-Bo Band played for the dances during 
the summer of 1928. We played six nights a week and also for 
special parties and outings. 

Dancing was a major diversion in those Volstead days of 
the "Roaring Twenties," and while the many winter dance hall 
floors were getting a new sanding and coat of varnish, the 
ferry boat provided summer dances. They were well 

Tony had a six-piece band on the ferry, with himself on 
trumpet, Ernie Beaverbock on trombone, Louis Bruhn on 
piano. Herb Day on drums, and Johnny Eberhardt and I play- 
ing the saxes. Tony had been playing since jazz was invented 
and had a wide reputation. 

There was great fascination to the river. Sunsets and 
golden paths of waves under silhouetted bridges changed into 
a Disneyland of thousands of lights with each light reflected 
on a million dancing waves. And the boat itself was outlined by 
white bulbs and the dance hall was colorful with hanging Japa- 
nese lanterns of many colors. Many people came just to ride in 
this cool festive atmosphere. 

There seemed to be a rhythm to the boat and to the river 
in addition to the dance music. The great wooden drive-shaft 
seemed to set the basic beat as each slat in the stern paddle- 
wheel slapped the water in double time. The entire boat 
throbbed. And at just the right time, the throaty old whistle 
would let patrons and shoppers know that the boat would soon 
be docking. This path was repeated by the clock as the pilot 


put the boat in a dog trot against the current back and forth in 
sort of a figure 8. Nearing the dock on the upstream loop, Lee 
"Red" Bateman, with a large rope in hand, would leap across 
the churning gap and twirl the rope around a large piling to 
stop the boat's momentum. As the current settled the boat 
back, Lee would re-twirl the rope and lock it by a slot at the pil- 
ing top as the shiny post squeaked painfully, holding the boat 
secure. Bateman would then raise the restraining fence and 
lower the gangway. Next he'd race to the rear where another 
piling and rope would hold the boat in place while docked and 
act as a pivot allowing the bow to swing out with the current 
when pulling away. This would require another leap from the 
dock to the boat. 

There was great skill shown in these landings and 
debarkings between the pilot, the rope man, and the engineers 
in the boiler room who obeyed the bell signals for power, both 
forward and reverse. Wind, river stages, and currents kept the 
river alive and sometimes unfriendly. 

The boat was Billy Quinlan's pride and joy. He was all 
over the boat during long hours of every day. He was a trim 
dapper little Irishman in his naval officer blue and white cap. 
He ran a tight little ship with efficiency and decorum at all 
times. He'd take tickets, relieve the pilot, sweep out peanut 
shells and popcorn, inkstamp hands of the dancers, and per- 
form any duty of the moment. I often thought of the ferry boat 
as Billy Quinlan's toy as he pushed it back and forth across his 
big Mississippi bath tub. 

There was a romance about the boat endemic to every- 
one. It provided an efficient and enjoyable way to cross the 
great river, which was a necessary service in those days of 
"down town" shopping and rivalry between Rock Island and 
Davenport merchants. At a nickel a crossing, it was a real bar- 
gain. Many tourists and vacationers enjoyed riding the upper 
deck (for a fee) just to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Mis- 
sissippi. Children were always thrilled to ride the boat. And 
summer dancing on the B/7/v Q. brought pleasure to thousands 

of young as well as to old. 

These memories make the final demise of this lovely old 
girl all the more sad. Resting on a rotten wooden cradle, 
deserted and alone, stripped of all her valuables, and 
unpainted, and smothered in window-high horse weeds and 
nettles, she was a forlorn and melancholy sight. 

But I'll always remember those happy, smiling faces as 
viewed from the orchestra stand, see the Japanese lanterns, 
hear the paddle wheel and splashing water, the signal bells, the 
beckoning whistle and the squeaking ropes, and picture Billy 
Q. in complete command of his lovely toy. 


Glenn Philpott 

During the depression of the 198()'s, I spent several sum- 
mers working as a gandy dancer on the old Rock Island Rail- 
road, lovingly later called "Route of the Rockets." As another 
page of history is turned, it is now out of action. 

The extra gangs of laborers consisted of a bunch of 
unemployed men with little knowledge and strong backs. The 
pay was 35$ per hour, and payday was the first of the month 
and the 15th. On these nights, the taverns did a lot more busi- 
ness than the banks. Most of these men were "floaters" or 
drifters. Some had prison records, and it wasn't at all unusual 
for the sheriff to come out to our job and take a man back to 
town. On one occasion, one of the foremen actually carried a 
45 revolver in his belt. 

Several of these men were from other states. They only 
worked a few days. Then they would draw a "time check." With 
a few dollars, they would just drift with the wind. 

One summer, we worked out of Bureau, Illinois, 
resurfacing track west thru Tiskilwa and Wyanet. Some of the 

gang were: "Otto" Vowels, "Babby" Babcock, "Bob" and 
"Fuzzy" James, David "Scotty" Scott, "Red" Anderson, 
"Swede" Shallean and "Happy" Ryan. I have been told that 
some ofthem are now working on that railroad "up there" with 
the golden chariots. 

Most lunch hours were spent playing poker, penny ante, 
or just swapping yarns with some of the gang. Seldom was 
there any shade available, so some ofus just crawled up under 
our straw hat and tried to rest. 

After a few days out in the sun, we all looked like Indians. 
Between the hot sun and the creosote on the ties, we always 
peeled a lot. The work was hard, and in those days, we had no 
coffee breaks. As I don't smoke, there was no way to kill time. 
A lot of men rolled their own in those days, so they could fudge 
a little break now and then. 

Most of our work was maintenance. We laid new steel at 
times. All the work was hard and quite dangerous. All the tools 
were heavy, and mashed fingers and toes were quite common. 
Resurfacing the tracks required raising the rails and tamping 
new gravel under the ties manually (no hydraulic tools in those 

I never got used to drinking that warm water out of a 
wooden keg when thirsty. The water at Bureau was artesian, 
which is bad enough to drink when cool. One day, one of the 
men dumped a pound container of rolled oats into that keg. He 
had heard that drinking too much water wasn't good for a per- 
son, and he thought the oats would reduce the water consump- 
tion. It did, and if there had been a tree handy, we would have 
hung him right there. 

After spending eight hours out in the weather, rain or 
shine, it was always a joy to crawl on the motor car for the ride 
back into town. We could forget all about tie plates, angle bars, 
creepers, frogs and lining bars until tomorrow. 

In my memory, I can still see the old steam engines bear- 
ing down the track with the smoke rolling back over the cab. 
No other sound is like what the drive wheels make. The old 

gray-haired engineer would hang out the cab, waving with one 
hand and holding the other hand on the throttle. It makes me 
want to start whistling "Casey Jones." 


H. D. Ewing 

It was a hot sunny afternoon in the summer of 1913. I 
was standing on the bedrock of the Mississippi River when I 
heard a voice scream "Look Out!" At that moment I heard a 
crash and looked around in time to see the tail-end of a rope 
pass through a pulley. Although I did not see the accident, I 
had just experienced the death of a man working on the 
ground of the power station of the Keokuk Dam. 

I was a lad of 13, carrying water to the workers on the 
dam, an I learned that death from accidents was not unusual. 
There were several water boys of about my age carrying water 
in a bucket filled with one chunk of ice and water. There was 
one long handle dipper for use of all, and sanitation seemed to 
be no concern. The wall of water was about four times my 
height as the workers were closing the last section of the dam 
to connect it to the power station. The roar of the water pour- 
ing through the last section was frightening. The dam was 
started on the Illinois side of the river, and the locks and power 
station were in Iowa. 

I was excited about working on such a big project. The 
dam was intended to improve transportation on the river as 
well as provide hydro-electric power. My salary was 75 cents 
per hour for a 12-hour day. At the end of two weeks, I was paid 
in cash and felt like a rich man. 

As mentioned above, deaths were not uncommon, and 
not all were attributed to accidents. The laborers were mostly 
foreign, from Poland (called Polacks) and Hungary (called 


Huns). Temporary buildings were erected on the Iowa side to 
house the laborers, which naturally forced them into smaller 
groups. Often after payday, there were drunken brawls, and 
occasionally someone among them suffered death. 

The coffer dams were a feat of engineering. They were 
large box-like affairs deeper than the water was high. These 
were made of very thick lumber, mostly oak. They were filled 
with rock and sunk to the river-bed. A series of the high boxes 
stopped the water so work could be done on the river-bed. I 
recall the small engine trains of concrete that ran on the track 
on the top of the dam as the dam progressed and took shape. 
The small cars were dump cars and each held several cubic 
yards of concrete. There was usually a lot of noise from the 
gasoline engine water pumps that kept the river bed dry 
enough to work. 

The completion of the dam was marked by a big celebra- 
tion. A large fireworks display was held from the railroad 
tracks at the foot of the bluff that was a city park. Rand Park. 
The last display was the American flag, and it must have been 
100 feet by 50 feet in size. 

In June of 1913 two of the largest riverboats on the Mis- 
sissippi went through the locks at the same time, and the lake 
created north of the dam improved navigation on that stretch 
of the river. 


Hazel Denum Frank 

When I "think back," it is almost unbelievable how 
things have changed. Today we have all kinds of telephones — 
any shape or type one can imagine. Dial, push button, auto- 
matic recall, cordless — the varieties are unlimited. Back in 
1926, for instance, there were basically two kinds: the box-like 
phone that hung on the wall, or a plain desk phone, or perhaps 

a "cradle phone." All wires were on poles along roadways. The 
wires of larger companies, both local and inter-city lines, were 
on straight poles with cross arms supporting the lines. Pri- 
vately owned local companies could be seen on shorter, 
crooked poles supporting perhaps one line. 

The switchboard in the "Central Office" consisted of 
numbered "drops" designating the lines, two rows of plugs and 
push keys. When someone wanted to make a call, they took 
the receiver off the hook and turned a crank on the side of the 
box. This sent a signal to the central switchboard and the drop 
connected with that line would drop down and start a "buzz- 
ing." The operator would plug in one of the plugs, which were 
in pairs, and answer, "Number please." When the caller gave 
the number, the operator would plug the other plug of that pair 
into the drop on the board corresponding with the line asked 
for, and with the key make the ring of longs and shorts accord- 
ing to the number requested. Then she would open the key to 
see if the party answered. If not, she would repeat until they 
did answer, or she was satisfied they were not going to answer. 
As soon as the party answered, the operator was on her honor 
to shut the key and not listen in. When the call was completed, 
there was again a buzz, signaling the operator to disconnect 
both plugs. 

Numbers were based on a code system, the first part des- 
ignating the ring and the last part designating the line num- 
ber. (1, 2, 3 and 4 designated the number of shorts. And 5 
meant 1 long. For example: "25 on 56" meant a ring of 2 shorts 
and 1 long on line 56.) When the operator made a ring on a 
line, this ring would come in on every phone on that line, which 
might be as many as six to twelve. This made it possible for 
anyone on that line to listen in, so there was no privacy. How- 
ever there was an advantage to this lack of privacy. If there was 
some bit of information such as an announcement of a meet- 
ing, or a birth or such, or if there was an emergency call for 
help such as a fire, three long rings repeated several times 
means a "line call" and eseryone on that line was expected to 


answer. This "line call" might be made by someone on that line 
or by the operator. 

The Stronghurst Telephone Company Central Office 
consisted of a 2-section board where two operators could work 
at once. Periods when there were fewer calls, one operator 
could take care of both sections. In order for continuous serv- 
ice to be available, a night operator would go on duty at 9 p.m. 
and work until 7 a.m. The office was on the second floor, above 
the bank, and consisted of the office, a bedroom, and toilet 
facilities. When the calls stopped, usually about 9 p.m., the 
operator would turn on the night bell which, when a call came 
in, would ring loud enough to awaken the operator in case she 
was sleeping in the adjoining room. She might be wakened sev- 
eral times during the night and had to be up, dressed and have 
the bed made by about 5:30 or 6, when the farmers began call- 
ing. She would turn the board over to the day operators at 7 

In 1926 I was a junior in High School. My only sister, 
Roberta Denum, had graduated and was employed as the 
night operator for Stronghurst Telephone Company. As my 
mother had died the previous December, and my father, Jess 
Denum, was the Village Night Marshal, I stayed with my sister 
in the telephone office at night. Since I was not 18, I was not 
supposed to work and drew no pay. However, I soon learned to 
work the board and often did so while my sister undressed for 
the night or dressed and made the bed in the morning. How- 
ever, I was very careful never to answer the "Boss's" calls. 
Most nights there was seldom a call late, except for the doctor 
or other emergency. However, on New Year's Eve, just at mid- 
night, calls began to come in wishing friends "Happy New 
Year." When one particular call came in, you could hear much 
laughter and talking in the background, but when the party 
answered, all was quiet. And they would seriously ask, "Is this 
1-9-2-7?" Of course, the sleepy voice would reply, "No" and the 
caller would say, "Go look at your calendar," and hastily hang 
up, then repeat this call to another sleepy victim. This was one 

night the operators got very little sleep. 

The services of a telephone operator went far beyond the 
required duty of running the switchboard. If a patron called 
for a person by name, the operator would look up the number, 
or perhaps she would know it without referring to the list, 
which was posted so she could find it easily. Since the office 
was on second floor on main street, view of the street was eas- 
ily available. If someone did not answer their call, the operator 
might say, "I just saw him go down the street or into a store." 
The operator was often very helpful in other ways. One day a 
farmer called and said he wanted to call the man who owned a 
corn sheller. He didn't know the man's name or ever what 
town, but it was "down south, maybe at Colchester or 
LaHarpe." In a few minutes, the operator called the farmer 
back with his party on the line. 

The telephone operator handled all emergency calls, 
relaying the message to the proper source, such as the doctor 
or police. In case of a fire she would sound the alarm and relay 
the message to the Fire Department. If the fire was in the rural 
area she might make a general line call (three long rings, 
repeated) on the lines of that area. 

Although there have been many advances in technology, 
they have never invented a machine that completely replaced 
the telephone operator of yesteryear. If you have never known 
a local telephone operator, you can never comprehend how 
important she was to her community. 


Clarissa M. J aim 

Brrng-brrrrng-brrng; short-long-short — that's our ring! 
I ran into the kitchen and took down the receiver from the old 
wooden box phone on the wall. A city girl who had married a 
farmer, I had been used to a telephone that rang when a caller 


wanted to speak to one of our I'amily. Now I was on a party line 
with ten families at the "party." 

This time it was my aunt, asking how my first attempt at 
making preserves had turned out. "Great," I assured her, "I 
used all the pears, two pounds of sugar," and I finished with a 
hasty description of my afternoon's labors. 

As soon as I hung up, there came our ring again — short- 
long-short. This time an unfamiliar voice asked, "Would you 
go over the last part of that recipe for preserves again? I didn't 
get all of it." A neighbor had been listening in. 

Listening in was necessary at times. To make a call, I had 
to take down the receiver and listen to see if someone was 
already using the line. If I forgot and cranked the handle on 
the side of the phone to signal the operator without listening 
in, I might be ringing into a conversation. Then I would hear a 
voice exclaiming, "Well, someone just rang my ear off!" At 
these times it was best to hang up quietly without saying any- 
thing to betray my identity and call later. Much later. 

Listening in took the place of modern day soap operas to 
some people on the line who were unable to get out very often. 
There were no TV sets and no daily newspapers. If someone 
was a steady listener, the many voices on the party line soon 
became familiar characters. 

Once in a long while, four long rings were heard. This was 
a general emergency signal for e\'eryone on the line to listen 

One windy October day our paper-dry corn field caught 
on fire. I remember running to the phone, calling the operator 
and shouting, "We have a fire here!" I hung up and ran out with 
a half- filled water pail and threw pail and all toward the field. 
The roaring mass of flames sweeping through the corn was 
already out of my control. 

I ran back to the phone to ask the operator to send more 
help, but she had already recognized my voice and had called 
for all help available. Over .300 people responded to fight the 
tire, and although we lost two fields ol standing corn, they 

saved our barn and corn crib. 

During World War II, the "boys" who called home to this 
rural area were treated to a special privilege. The operator 
would alert the party line that an important call was coming 
in. Relatives would gather at several phones along the line to 
hear Johnnie's voice and maybe get in a word or two. 

The main switchboard was in the operator's home. Zella, 
our operator, worked for 16'/: years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a 
week. Of course she occasionally had someone substitute for 
her so that she could go on errands, but this was not often. 

In October, 1967, the old switchboard, the last of its kind 
in the state of Illinois, was carried out of Zella's house in 
Edgington. It was shipped to the Bell Museum in Chicago, 
where it is on display. 

There was over half a century of humor, pathos, courage 
and tragedy carried over the party line. I sometimes wonder 
what it would be like to hear those long-lost voices coming out 
ofthe old head-set again. No matter who was speaking, I'll bet 
Zella would know! 


Nellie Rue 

It was Christmas morning, 1953, and my husband and I 
were awakened about 6:00 a.m. by the excited whispers and 
giggles of our small daughters. The four stockings which had 
been "hung by the chimney with care" were filled, including a 
tiny one holding a jar of baby food and a rattle. There was no 
doubt Santa had been there as there were four neat piles of 
toys, books, games, and snuggly warm pajamas and a note 
thanking the girls for the cookies and milk. 

After turning on the tree lights, daddy gave the "go 
ahead" signal and the living room was immediately filled with 
squeals of delight. Suddenly the oldest daughter glanced up 


and shouted — "Television!" Needless to say we were not sur- 
prised as we had contrived with our local appliance dealer and 
friend, Clarence Shields, to deliver and install the set after the 
girls were asleep (a fringe benefit from living in a small town). 
According to them, everybody in Mt. Sterling already owned 
television but the Roes! While this was a "slight" exaggera- 
tion, it was true that TV antennas were springing up around 
town like mushrooms. 

Although experimental TV began in 1930 and commer- 
cial TV in 1941, World War II had postponed expansion of the 
medium. It was not until 1946-47 that full scale promotion got 
underway and the number of sets in use in the U.S. grew from 
14,000 to almost a million in two short years. The first televi- 
sion in Mt. Sterling was owned by Julius and Lucille Wegs in 
1947 and was kept in their Pool Hall on Capitol Ave. where the 
fights were the most popular program. The first sets had a 
small ten-inch screen and received their programs from St. 
Louis or Rock Island and occasionally Kansas City. Reception 
was often poor and affected by weather conditions. Local 
reception improved considerably with the addition of WGEM 
in Quincy, followed shortly by KHQA. Most owners had a box- 
like device on the set that rotated the antenna for a clearer pic- 

Lucky was the Mt. Sterling child whose family owned 
one of the first TV sets. He or she had a multitude of friends 
and a choice of baby-sitters. These homes were a gathering 
place for friends and neighbors for special shows. Meanwhile, 
"back at the Roe living room," Grandma and Grandpa's visit, 
which was usually the highlight of the season, was put "on 
hold" while the girls sat entranced through the story of "The 
Little Match Girl." A couple of years later as I put the pre- 
schooler in front of the set with her breakfast to watch "Cap- 
tain Kangeroo," the older girls reluctantly gathered up their 
books and left for school. I was always glad if the Captain got 
in his "this is be good to Mommy day" before they departed. 
Some of their older favorite shows were "Howdv Doodv," 

"Superman," and "Winky Dink," which urged you to order a 
see-through sheet of plastic to draw on after placing it over the 

I'm sure mothers of my generation in this area will 
remember the "Cactus Jim" show on KHQA, sponsored by 
Prairie Farms Milk. Children were invited as guests on the 
show and many a carload of children made the trip, knowing 
that friends and neighbors would be watching their television 
debut. Cactus Jim (alias Dick Moore) would be dressed in full 
Western regalia and interview each child, followed by a car- 
toon. Then small cartons of milk (Prairie Farms, of course) 
would be passed around, followed by an enthusiastic chorus of 
"Man, that's good milk," while rubbing their tummy. 

As for adult programs, who can forget Ed Sullivan's 
"Toast of the Town," "I Love Lucy," Milton Berle, Edward R. 
Murrow's "Person to Person," and "The Hit Parade"? Favor- 
ite game shows were "What's My Line?," "Name That Tune," 
"To Tell the Truth," and "The $64,000 Dollar Question," 
which ended in a scandal. One of the first Soap Operas, "As the 
World Turns," is still watched by millions, and some of the 
original stars are still with the show. However, I miss Nancy 
and Chris Hughes, and their daughter. Penny, hasn't written 
the family for about 20 years! Commercials? Oh, yes, we were 
blessed with them back then too. Our toddlers, like those of 
today, could spell T-I-D-E before they could spell C-A-T and 
sing TV jingles while they were being "potty-trained" without 
missing a note. 

Now, as I look back on nearly four decades of television, 
the changes have been dramatic. Practically every home con- 
tains one or more TV sets ranging in size from a 45-inch screen 
(or larger) to a tiny one which can be worn on the wrist. We can 
turn on our set or change channels from our easy chair and 
enjoy a wide range of programs with the additions of cable, 
movie channels, and satellite dishes. The ability this medium 
has to entertain, educate, inform and influence is "mind- 
boggling." Even though we live in a small, rural county, we can 


watch brilliant drama, comedy, world-wide sports, and news 
in-the-making. We have run the gamut from watching the 
senseless assassination of a president to listening breathlessly 
for the first historic words of Neil Armstrong as he stepped on 
the surface of the moon. We have seen the course of politics 
changed by appearances of candidates during debates and the 
resignation of a president in disgrace. Our world has indeed 
become smaller. 

However, many would agree that not all changes have 
been positive. Many of the programs are bland and mediocre 
and episodes of violence and pornography are increasing. 
Research has shown that the average high school graduate will 
have spent almost twice as much time watching TV as he has 
in the classroom and has witnessed some 150,000 violent epi- 
sodes. Statistics show that crime, drugs, suicide, and sexual 
promiscuity are on the rise throughout our nation. Is TV view- 

ing contributing to the problem, or is it a reflection of our 
changing times? 

It is unrealistic to believe we will ever return to the days 
when Jack Paar caused a furor over using the term "water 
closet" (toilet), but I think the pendulum has swung too far in 
the other direction. There should be a clear message to the 
industry in the fact that Bill Cosby's new family show is rated 
number one in popularity. 

In retrospect, even with all it's growing pains, I believe 
television is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, 
and I am glad it occurred during my lifetime. Outwardly, it 
seems to have done little to change life in the small town of Mt. 
Sterling. Farmers still meet in town and discuss the weather 
and the crops. However, one may end the conversation by say- 
ing, "Well, I better get home. I want to find out who shot J. R.!" 

X special Memories 



Wright Morris once made the point that the rural mid- 
western environment has the effect of magnifying the 
minutest details of life and landscape: a particular branch in a 
particular tree, the peculiar pitch of the 12:00 whistle, the 
apple orchard across the C&NW tracks on the south end of 
town, the weathering of the outfield fence at the ball park or 
the sign on top of the water tower. In the days before television 
(and radio), rural life had a way of magnifying certain small 
moments as well, moments which might easily have been lost 
in the richer tapestry of a more cosmopolitan, urban exis- 
tence: the day Sousa came to town (or a neighboring town), the 
day the dry goods store burned, the weekend of the big blizzard 
or the flooded river. Small entertainments too tended to be 
enlarged: the pleasure of a game of cards, stories well told, ice 
skating, playing with the pets, reading the farm newspaper. 
"Much in little," as the motto of one downstate Illinois town 

A sensibility hardened by nightly television disasters 
imported from all around the globe cannot comprehend, 
really, the impact of a real tornado, of a murder or a theft, of a 
suicide or a major trial on a community which had neither 
seen on television nor experienced directly any major disaster 
in decades. These were the material of lifelong memories, and 
many of the stories recounted here are of small town disasters 
which, in their day, made headlines in local newspapers but, 
unlike the Chicago fire, impacted little on the rest of the coun- 
try and have since disappeared from the national 

Sensibilities are likely to be similarly hardened to the 
nuances of a game of cards, a grade school valentine, the sight 
of circus animals close up. Actually, there was a day not long 
distant when card-playing, no matter how innocuous it today 
appears, was frowned upon by much of society and preached 
against from the pulpits of some churches. A game of pinochle 

was not entirely innocent. In the routine that was farm life in 
the early years of this century, a visit from even the smallest 
circus — the sight of elephants and camels and other animals 
drinking from livestock tanks used to water horses and 
cattle — might just be the memory of a lifetime. 

Looking at the list of pastimes suggested by the reminis- 
cences which follow, one is struck at first by how inexpensive 
they are: fishing and ice skating (although youngsters learned 
on two-blade skates and "graduated" to single-blade skates), 
marbles, jump-rope, stilts, card-playing, the usual assortment 
of pets. One, however, is conspicuous by the expense involved: 
pigeon-racing was apparently, in Moline at least, big business. 
The birds were fed and bred, housed, trained, transported long 
distances from home to race each other back to their respec- 
tive coops. And owners were not above betting a little cold cash 
or friendly drinks on the races' outcomes. It is not entirely 
accurate to assume that old time pleasures were necessarily 
cheap pleasures. 

The least expensive pastime of all is story-telling, and in 
these remembrances we see ample evidence of that now dying 
art. Elements of that skill can be seen in the grace with which 
narratives are recounted, stories shaped, characters devel- 
oped, and details handled in many of these reminiscences. 
Some, however, are actually crafted mystery and suspense sto- 
ries of the type told by grown-ups to young children around a 
camp fire as the coals dull to black on the eve of their first 
night in the wilderness. These tales of the supernatural come 
complete with all the characteristics of the oral story: direct 
address to audience, a variety of rhetorical strategies designed 
to evoke the hearer's sympathy and confidence in the speak- 
er's integrity, and a wealth of precise detail that attests to the 
story's authenticity: you just could not make something like 
that up. 

Whether the stories have been made up, whether they 
are folk tales told and retold by at least two generations (and 
polished and ornamented in the process), whether they are 

communal tales or the tales oftheir authors, is difficult to say. American short story tradition— was alive and heahhy in this 

They are proof positive, however, that the pastime of story- area, and remains alive today in the minds of at least some of 

telling — the art out of which Sherwood Anderson crafted the our citizens. 

David R. Pichaske 



James B. Jackson 

When I was seven our house was just across the road 
from Eh Munson's orchard, a small commercial planting of 
perhaps ten or fifteen acres. To me it seemed endless. That 
spring when all the trees were in bloom and thousands of bees 
worked with a steady hum from sun-up to sun-down, I felt 
maybe heaven was a lot like an apple orchard. I still remember 
the old Wolf River tree with its huge fruit, and the funny 
shaped Sheep Nose; neither was very high quality but both 
were memorable. Considering their shape, either variety could 
have produced the sport that was the original Starks Deli- 

Jim Burrow had a smaller orchard. He made cider from 
his own apples and did custom work for the farmers who 
brought their apples to be processed. Jim was married to my 
mother's cousin, and I was always welcome to all the cider I 
could drink and all the applies I could eat. We walked past 
Jim's to and from school. The blossoms in the spring and the 
ripening apples in the fall and even the bare, gnarled trees in 
winter held a special attraction for me. Further down the road 
we passed Frank Conn's farm orchard. Any apples on the 
ground could be had for the taking by any kid or grown-up that 
wanted an apple to eat. It was just far enough between these 
two friendly orchards to eat an apple! 

The apples came in great variety and over a long season. 
The very earliest was the Yellow Transparent, ready for sauce 
in early July, often by thrashing time. It was medium size, pale 
yellow, not too sweet and so tender when ripe that it squashed 
if it fell to the ground. They made good pie and were O.K. to eat 
raw, but special only because we had been out of apples for sev- 
eral months. Early Harvest came next, another yellow apple 
but darker and more substantial than the Transparent. These 
two held us until the Wealthy and the Maiden Blush came in 
early September. The wealthy was a nice, firm, tart apple, light 

red with greenish-yellow stripes, fine for pies, jelly, sauce and 
just fair for eating raw. Maidenblush was rather flattened in 
shape, dusky gold in color with a lovely pink cheek. This was 
probably the best pie apple of all time. The last tree I knew of 
was growing in the back yard of a house we bought in 1947. It 
had been badly neglected for many, many years. By careful 
pruning and spraying, we got two or three small crops before 
that venerable tree fell over in an ice storm and we reverently 
burned the wood in the dining room fireplace. So for more 
than 35 years I have dreamed at least one tree of Maiden Blush 
apples would survive. 

Let me not overlook the Snow Apple. No child who grew 
up with Snow Apples could ever be considered 
underpriviledged. I wonder if they have gone the way of the 
Wolf River and the Maiden Blush. Snow Apples were small, 
round, brilliant dark red outside and snow white flecked with 
red inside. They were sweet and crisp and tender and juicy. I 
thought it a shame to sacrifice even just enough to make a pie 
or a dish of sauce. If manna had grown on trees, it would most 
certainly have been presented as Snow Apples. 

By mid-September the fall and winter crop began to 
come in. Grimes Golden was a rich, flavorful apple truly 
golden in color, medium in size and superb in flavor — sweet 
and spicy. A grade A eating apple, it was also excellent for any 
and all kinds of cooking. As late as 1975 it was still available in 
limited quantities in a few orchards in Southern Illinois and 
elsewhere, I suppose, where the old trees had not been 
uprooted to make way for the much newer and more popular 
Yellow Delicious. Even at its best, the Grimes could not quite 
match the old fashioned Jonathan for culinary purposes. For 
many years the Jonathan was the most popular red apple in 
the Midwest. There have been some "improvements" to make 
it a better keeper and a better shipper and a redder red, and 
the result has been a lessening of the true quality of a once 
famous apple. After the Starks Brothers nursery of Louisiana, 
Missouri, introduced the Red Delicious as a companion piece 

for the Yellow Delicious, the [jopularity of this grand old favor- 
ite has declined. 

The Jonathan was the apple for pies, sauce, dumplings, 
jelly, baking and most of all for eating raw. It was ready to cook 
when it was red, no matter how hard it was. Picked at that 
early stage and stored in the coolest possible place, it would 
keep until Christmas. We always left some on the tree until 
first hard frost or light freeze. They would then be sweet and 
juicy and would almost pop when the first bite was taken. The 
flesh would no longer be pure white, but a very pale yellow and 
there would be almost clear spots of a deeper yellow. The fra- 
grance was so pronounced that a deer could smell one a mile 
down wind. We used to stomp on a couple of Jonathans when 
we took a stand on a deer hunt. It not only attracted deer but 
seemed to override the smell of the hunter. I learned in later 
life that most so-called deer lure was made from apples. What 
wonderful cider they made and what wonderful vinegar that 
cider made! Were I a poet, I would write "an Ode to a Jonathan 
Apple" — far better than a Grecian Urn. 

Many of the old apples had almost romantic names. A 
list of winter apples is truly poetic: 

Wine Sap, Northern Spy, 

Ballwin, York and Willow Twig. 

Ben Davis, Greening, 

Russet, Pippin, 

Mcintosh and Jonathan. 

Maiden Blush, Rome Beauty, 

Yellow Transparent, 

Wolf River, Sheep Nose, Wealthy, 

Early Harvest, Red Astracan and Crab. 

Northern Spy was a very old variety, dating from pre- 
Civil War times, spicy, juicy, colorful, good cooker, good 
keeper, fine to eat out of hand. It long ago disappeared from 
the Mid- West but it is still available in Canada and north- 

eastern U.S. It is truly a northern apple, and it thrives on cold 
winters. Thank God, its true worth is still recognized by some 
orchardists! Let us hope it never becomes merely a memory, 
another dream. 

Ben Davis! If it were not for modern refrigeration, we 
might still be suffering through March and into April with 
nothing better than that poor, miserable apple. It could be 
eaten. It could be cooked. What flavor it had was not in the 
least tempting. The texture was poor; the color was poor; 
everything about it was mediocre except its keeping qualities. 
In this one area it was a champion. When all other apples were 
used up or rotting, old Bed Davis was just as good, nay, better 
than ever. I have always believed we have Johnny Appleseed to 
t hank for this cherished but ignominous apple. So I tip my hat 
ever so slightly to John Chapman and his bag of apple seed 
and whoever it was that saved that one particular seedling. 

When I think back to the days when every farm had at 
least one or two apple trees and many had a small orchard it 
would be easy for me to write a fat paragraph about each of 
those wonderful old fashion apples. Each had it's own special 
merits and its own loyal supporters. Many are still on the mar- 
ket and can plead their own case. The others have earned their 
place of respect in the annals of apple history and need no fur- 
ther word of praise from me. 

I sometimes dream of the least apples, the crabs. I knew 
two kinds as a youth. The one was large for a crab, maybe an 
inch and a half long and an inch thick. It was mostly red but 
had dull yellow stripes. Sweet enough to eat in a pinch but 
strong on the malic acid, it made good jelly and pickles and 
preserves. The Siberian crab was smaller, more acid and beau- 
tiful to behold. It was a glowing golden color with a red blush 
on one cheek and dusted all over with ever so slight bluish cast 
similar to that found on concord grapes. The trees were always 
loaded. Once Pat McKone gave us a branch about four feet 
long so full of the beautiful fruit that we got over two gallons of 
apples from it. The juice carried so much pectin that it could 


he used much as we use commercial pectin today. Ifthere were 
no crab apples availahle, we could always pick a gallon or two 
of the hard, knotty, green wild crabs. Any one who knows the 
bloom ofthe wild crab will remember their delicate beauty and 
incomparable fragrance. But all that ended with the bloom. 
We used the juice only with some other fruit such as cherries 
or strawberries. There was one wild apple that we hunted for 
and cherished even when cultivated crabs were abundant — 
the red haw. They had a richness and an aroma not yet 
matched by any other apple, wild or tame, and this quality car- 
ried over to the jelly. Even the cultivated sorts used to adorn 
city boulevard strips and public parks should not be over- 
looked. I picked a gallon or so every fall for several years on a 
busy street in a St. Louis suburb. No one else ever bothered 
with them. Several bushels went to waste every autumn. I have 
also picked some ofthe ornamental crabs and from that sam- 
pling I feel sure that most if not all of such fruit would be 
equally delightful. 

New apples are being developed and marketed every 
year. They are to be found in the supermarkets and produce 
stands. They are as good or better than the romanticized old 
varieties. I think of Ida-Red, Improved Jonathan, Matsu, 
Granny Smith and Jona-Gold to name but a few. In time the 
new will crowd out the old ones that I dream about. But I am 
all ready starting to dream about the future, and more impor- 
tantly about the men like Stark and Burbank and Burpee who 
know how to make dreams come true. They are hard at work 
all over the apple world and they will give substance to my 
dream ofthe perfect apple. May their tribe increase! 


Gale Dixun 

My family and friends have encouraged me to write of my 
experiences in running our maple syrup camp. The forty acres 
where the hard maple trees are is on the Crooked Creek bot- 
tom northwest of Colmar. My brother Howard and I own it. 
The forty acres was given to my Mother by her Father, E.P. 
Williams, in 1908. We bought it in 1952 after my Mother died. 

Before my brothers and I were old enough to work the 
camp the Roberts family ran it on shares. The area grew 200 or 
more hard maple trees. Not all trees were tapped the same 
year. We usually tapped for sap water in February or the first 
week of March. 

My Dad, my brother Clee, and Roberts built the camp 
shack. It was open on two sides, and had a small enclosed area 
on one end with a wood stove for heat and storage. In the two- 
sided area a furnace pit was dug about two feet deep to put the 
cooking pan in. 

I found a bill where my Mother had bought the last syrup 
pan we used. It was a blue annealed iron pan about thirty 
inches wide and eleven feet long. She bought it in February of 
1938 from West Sheet Metal Company of Galesburg and paid 
$24.40 for it. It was shipped by Dohrn Transfer to Colmar for 

The syrup pan was set over the pit and dirt mounded up 
to the top of the eight-inch deep pan. It was partitioned off 
into two sections, a starter end and the cook-off end, which 
was smaller. Six gallons was the least that could be cooked off 
without scorching. The most we ever cooked off at one time 
was 22 gallons. 

Before opening the camp we whittled out about 400 
spiles from sumac. Each was as big around as a broom handle 
and five inches long. We burned the pith out ofthe center and 
cut half of one end away to make a trough for the sap to flow 
through. The other end was tapered to drive into a hole bored 


into the tree. 

We also washed around two hundred ten-quart and 
twelve-quart buckets. These were hung on the tree to catch the 
sap water. Then the hard work really began. We cut several 
cords of wood to fire the furnace. We sawed and split this all by 
hand. The chain saw was unheard of then. 

It took freezing nights and thawing days to make good 
sap running weather. When we thought the time was right we 
drilled holes in the trees to about 1 V-t inches deep and drove the 
spiles in tight. Two spiles to a bucket hung on the tree from a 
nail. If sap water was running good, we emptied twice a day. 
but usually it was only once. 

We sometimes carried buckets of sap water to a holding 
tank at the shack. But we had a team and wagon with barrels 
on that we pulled around to trees to empty into. It took a 
thirty-gallon barrel of sap water to make a gallon of maple 
syrup. We dipped sap from the holding tank to a barrel with a 
spigot on it so it would run into the cooking pan. The largest 
end of the pan was where we fired the furnace under it. Filled it 
to about half full and as it cooked down more sap water ran 
into the pan from the barrel. It took about one and a half days 
to cook down a batch. As syrup thickened, we dipped to the 
smaller end of the pan to stir off from it. We started a new 
batch in the first pan as syrup finished cooking. We had to 
skim off the foam from time to time. It took a lot of experience 
to know when the syrup was just thick enough. Too long cook- 
ing, it would go to sugar. 

The Comar and North Colmar school children, their 
teachers, and some friends came for a wiener and egg roast 
when we were working at the camp. Mrs. Bushnell and Mrs. 
Pugh would cook some syrup down into maple sugar and the 
kids sure liked that. They had lots of fun romping in the tim- 

The syrup sold good to our regular customers around 
Macomb, Colchester, and Plymouth. Someof our regular cus- 
tomers were A. Larson, H. Martin, C. Hunt, M. Nooner, Stew- 

ard, Dr. Brown, F. Williams, Pittenger, Burford, Dr. Goldberg, 
and Dr. Holmes. I have a record of 67 gallons of syrup being 
made in 1936. Also, we bought the gallon tin pails for 10<C a 
piece and a 55-gallon wood barrel for .$1.00. We received $1.75 
for a pail of syrup. Also I worked the camp in 1940 and made 69 

In 1941 my brother Howard and I ran the camp, and I 
have some good pictures taken while we were cooking, hauling 
in, etc. Last time I ran the camp was in 1945. Lots of trees have 
since died. 

The taxes on this forty acres in the 30's and 40's was 
around .$1510 .$20. We now pay .$150. The land shows no profit 
as it did when the maple syrup was made and cows pastured 
there and we gathered lots of big bottom hickory nuts. 

The forty was pastured when my parents lived. They 
farmed the ground around it and lived on the hill above. Two 
years ago my grandson brought me a board from the old camp 
shack. I had burned our initials on it and named it the Lazy K. 
We hung it on the wall for a memory conservation piece. The 
shack has fallen in and the area has grown up in brush and bri- 
ars that you can hardly walk through. It is still good for fishing 
and wildlife, but that is another story. 


Celina L. Rawlish 

What is it that triggers the mind, setting off thoughts 
that make an elderly, sedate, housewife suddenly want to toss 
in the dishtowel, dig out some skates and head for a favorite 
outdoor area and go ice skating? But when I think of the Illi- 
nois and Michigan Canal, I laugh aloud as I picture myself 
gliding across the ice — at my age. 

I was born in Morris, Illinois November 28, 1915. Our 
first address was on Liberty Street, but I have no memories of 


those days. Then we movedto Jackson Street, which I remem- 
ber because of the big tlu epidemic. Several family members 
had the flu. No one would come into our house, but neighbors 
brought needed items, which were on a list tacked to a post on 
the front porch. North Street was our next location. Here I 
went through a two-month illness which caused my failure to 
pass third grade. Although I got passing grades in exams, I 
could not be promoted as I had been out of classes too many 
days. That was the law. Our final move before leaving Morris 
was to 424 Wall Street, a flea-hop away from the I&M canal. 
This was the start of an association that preserved this canal 
in my heart and mind forever. 

I shop often in Morris, Illinois . Each time I pass over the 
canal, going into town, I feel I'm meeting an old friend, with 
whom I spent some of the happiest days of my childhood. 

There were nine people in our family, two adults, seven 
children — five boys and two girls. We shared household space 
with two cats, a dog and three canaries. A large family plus a 
small house equals crowded conditions, so I spent a lot of time 
outdoors, much of it either in or on the canal. The seasons 
determined the in or on. 

The canal was our year-around playground, our recrea- 
tional area. Although there was a well equipped playground 
nearby, most kids preferred the canal, winter and summer. 
When the ice was safe enough to support the gang of kids who 
utilized it, it became as busy as a bee hive, swarming with kids. 
There was skating, sledding, hockey and many other outdoor 
games. The activities lured kids from other neighborhoods. If 
one didn't own a sled or skates, the hads freely shared with the 
had-nots. All this was free, no admission fee. On school days 
the hours spent on the canal were too few. We weren't allowed 
near the canal after dusk unless with an adult. On weekends, 
there were day-long sessions. We took time out long enough to 
refuel with a hot lunch, then back to the ice for as long as mus- 
cles responded. The only restrictions were lack of parental 
consent or physical stamina. Only two things could induce us 

to leave the ice — a call to supj^er and dwindling daylight. 

I started out skating on double runners and soon thought 
I was ready for single blades. On a pair of borrowed skates I set 
out to strut my stuff. What a shock! My ankles collapsed 
inward. Skating on my inner shinbones was to be my style, as I 
couldn't keep my ankles stiff. This made me the butt of many 
smart alecky remarks and caused much amusement. The 
embarrassment I felt didn't keep me from trying to straighten 
them bones, but all I accomplished was to wear holes in the 
inner parts of my high leather shoes. This didn't improve my 
pojjularity with my parents. When we moved in the fall, I 
thought it was to keep me off the ice and save shoeleather — 
the real reason was my father's work. I haven't been on skates 
since then — 1928, so the problem of weak ankles is still in my 
mind. Maybe that is why this desire to go skating has surfaced. 
I like to succeed, and the memory of those rubbery ankles ran- 

In the 192()'s there weren't many homes along the canal 
where we played. Some areas were used as dumping grounds 
and some debris would get in the water. In the winter, as the 
canal froze over, this trash would protrude through the ice. 
These hazards could trip one up. I know. I went from horizon- 
tal to vertical pretty often. Absorbed in keeping my balance, I 
wasn't too alert to these booby traps. 

In summer, it was swimming, fishing, boating and fight- 
ing mosquitoes. Our ammunition against mosquitoes was a 
rolled up newspaper. Newspaper wielders versus mosquitoes 
usually ended with many bumps on various parts of the news- 
paper wielders. This tells who hit the target most often. 

We loved to fish. In the early evening, my father would 
take the four oldest, space us out along the bank, settle him- 
self, and fish. We tossed out and yanked in our lines, baiting 
them with doughballs we cooked, and molded in the shape and 
size of marbles. I don't recall ever using worms, but we used 
the crawdaddies that were numerous and easy to catch. At 
dusk, when all those swirling lines made it hazardous, we 


hauled in our catch: bullheads (a few), and carp (many). Then 
we went home. 

This sometime fluid, sometime frozen playground 
served as another way. It also helped to keep our food from 
spoiling. We skated from Wall Street up to where the ice house 
was located, on Rod and Gun Club Road. We watched as ice 
was cut and stored. The ice business was owned by the 
Davidson family. When the iceman came, we would pester for 
a chip of ice, which we sucked on till our lips almost froze: then 
using our teeth as icecrushers we devoured those bits of our 
frozen playground. The old icebox was an important house- 
hold item and not a collectible conservation piece as it often is 

With so many children playing in or on the canal, some- 
thing was bound to happen — not a drowning, as might be 
expected, but an argument during a hockey game that ended 
in tragedy. As the quarrel progressed, tempers flared and a 
youth was hit in the back with a hockey stick (a gnarled tree 
limb). The resulting injury led to the youth's death. An 
inquest was held. Children who had witnessed the blow were 
asked to testify. The testimony given caused a rift in the 
friendly relations that had existed between several families. 
The bond of friendship was never healed, as some children 
who gave testimony were related to the youth who swung that 
fatal hockey club. It was a stressful time for all who were 

Another time, being a curious child, I went to see why a 
crowd of people were gathered on the canal banks. A man had 
been discovered, frozen in the ice. Several men were busy 
chopping the ice, in order to free the body. The man had trav- 
eled from his home south of where he had fallen, up to across 
from our place. He had fallen, arms outstretched, a bottle of 
poison clutched in one hand. When the body was freed from 
t he ice, t he imprint left, was in the shape of a cross. It was diffi- 
cult getting the body into the large wicker basket, used in 
those days by undertakers. The arms were frozen, making it 

hard to get the body in the basket. I didn't see how this was 
accomplished, as a neighbor lady saw me, scolded me and sent 
me from the scene. I never learned whether he died from poi- 
son or exposure. This incident bothered me for some time, as I 
went to school with and played with children of his family. 
Years later I read this quotation: "Most men lead lives of quiet 
desperation." I thought of this man. Remarks I overheard 
aliout his life conditions seemed to fit these words. 

In spite of these tragic events, I have many pleasant 
memories of Morris, Illinois and hours spent on the Illinois 
and Michigan Canal. 


Anna Hughbanks- Jackson * 

My mother, Mrs. Ann Hughbanks-Jackson, has often 
told me of my grandmother, Mrs. Minda Snook, and her expe- 
riences while living in a sod house in Kansas. The following is 
her story: 

During the winter of 1884-85 my Mother received a letter 
from her father saying that he had filed a claim on 160 acres of 
land in Kansas, and that there was another 160 acres of land 
joining his land to which no claim had been filed. He advised 
her to come out and lay claim to this piece. Being a divorced 
woman. Mother decided to go. She felt this land would give her 
more security. At the time she received the letter. Mother was 
teaching at the Sperry School, south of Bushnell, Illinois. At 
the close of the winter term, she packed her baggage and, tak- 
ing me, her eight-year-old little girl, with her, she started for 
the "Wild West." 

We left Bushnell at five o'clock in the morning by train, 
arriving in Dodge City, Kansas, toward evening. As the train 
pulled to a stop at the depot, we looked through the car window 
across the street. We were horrified and shocked to see a 

•Mr.s. HuKhbanks-.Jacksun told this story to her daughter. Pearl Jackson-Foster, who 


naked woman standing in tlie ojjen doorway of one of the 
buildings. I can imagine my motiier having second thoughts on 
t he prudence of her decision in bringing an eight-year-old girl 
to such a rough country. Since Dodge City was the closest the 
railroad could take us to my Grandfather's home, it was neces- 
sary to take a stagecoach to a point nearer to my grandfather's 
house. At midnight we stopped at a half-way house. The driver 
explained that it was necessary to change ponies; and asked, 
"Would we go inside the house to wait?" 

As we stepped inside the door, we soon saw the floor was 
covered with sleeping men; so, we had to pick our way across 
the floor lest we step on a man. We found chairs, to which we 
had been directed. We had not been sitting there long until a 
lady came down the open stairway. She wore the most beauti- 
ful dress I had ever seen. It was black covered with pretty 
beads. She came over to Mother and asked, "Would you like to 
go upstairs?" My mother gave her a very curt "No," and the 
lady walked away. Soon our driver came and said, "We are 
ready now to go." We took our seats in the stagecoach and were 
again on our way. 

Shortly before, dawn, the stagecoach drew up in front of 
a farm house. The driver called out, "Hello, Hello, Hello!" 
Soon a light appeared and a man came out. He escorted us into 
his home and the stagecoach went on its way. We were shown 
to a bedroom and I soon fell asleep. Morning soon came to a 
tired little girl. We were given our breakfast and then taken by 
team and wagon to my grandfather's home. We found him liv- 
ing in a one-room stone house, which he had built himself 
from the stone picked from his own land. The stones were 
cemented together with a mixture of dirt and water. There was 
a board roof on the house and he had also built a board lean-to. 
This lean-to served as a bedroom for Mother and me until she 
had time to build a house on her own land. 

As soon as convenient. Mother filed a claim on the 160 
acres of land joining my grandfather's land. She complied 
with the government regulations, which demanded that she 

build a house, dig a well, and ])low six acres of ground. Mother 
hired a man to plow the six acres of ground and build us a sod 
house. For the making of the house, he took two foot strips of 
sod and laid them as a mason lays brick, breaking joints and 
allowing for a door and two small windows. He then thatched a 
roof with poles and brush. The crude structure resulting from 
his labors was our home. Our life as settlers in Kansas was a 
struggle, but it was also a new and exciting experience for me. 

A few days after we arrived in Kansas, Mother's young- 
est brother Ward, also arrived. He came from Fredonia, Kan- 
sas. He was, of course, my Uncle, but he was only five years 
older than me. We became pals for the summer. 

We had neighbors within a half-mile on three sides; the 
Clarks on the North, the Joneses on the South, and the 
Curtises on the West. The Curtises were our favorite neigh- 
bors. Their family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Curtis, a grown 
daughter, Delia, and a little boy, Willie. Ward, Willie and I 
soon became fast friends and often exchanged visits during 
the summer. The Curtises had a yoke of oxen as their means of 
transportation and often took our family for a joy-ride on 
Sunday afternoons. Mother had some unpleasant experiences 
with the oxen. The oxen had learned to pull the stake up so 
that they would be free to wander about where they pleased. 
Occasionally, they seemed to be pleased to wander over to our 
sod house. They would rub their sides against the house, and 
their snorting and rubbing would awaken my Mother. Slipping 
her shoes on, out the door she would go, grabbing a stick as she 
went, and then she would beat the oxen over the back, until 
they were as far from the house as she thought necessary. 

My recollection of Western Kansas in 1885 is one of wide 
open spaces, a wide expanse of sky and land. There were no 
fences and no roads. Wagon wheel ruts near our house where 
the Clarks passed on their way to Ashland served as the road. 
We saw wild cattle every day, but they never came near the 
house. Occasionally we saw deer, but always at a distance. The 
prairie dogs barked in the day time and wolves howled every 


nisht. Snakes were so numerous that we kept big sticks, 
outside the house door. We never started away from the house 
without one of the big sticks. We generally used it before we 
returned. We were three miles from Ashland, a little one- 
street village, the county seat of Clark County. Grandfather 
would walk to Ashland for our groceries. 

The Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma, was only 
six miles from us. At that time our government had contracted 
to pay the Indians a certain sum of money at a specified time. 
During our stay in Kansas, the government for some reason 
was a trifle tardy with their payment. As time went on, there 
was no money with which the Indians had to buy groceries, 
they became impatient. It was rumored that the Indians were 
on the war path. For two nights Mother and Grandfather 
never took off their clothes. They were expecting to hear the 
Indian war-whoop before morning. At the end of the third day, 
word reached us that the government check had arrived. All 
was quiet again. 

My grandfather had spaded a small patch of ground for a 
garden and also a melon patch. In that sandy soil, we raised 
the sweetest, juiciest melons that I ever tasted. One day 
Mother went to the garden for a head of cabbage. She slid her 
fingers along the ground under the head of cabbage and 
pulled. Instead of the cabbage, she had a double handfuU of 
snake! Naturally, she dropped it and screamed. The snake 
slithered away and the she got the head of cabbage. Another 
day as Ward and I were coming back toward the house, I step- 
ped across a wagon wheel rut. As I stepped over the rut with 
one foot, I glanced down. There, stretched full length in the rut 
was a big snake. In those days, we were taught that snakes had 
the power to charm. The snake was quiet, so I stopped, and 
standing over the snake, I looked down at it's eyes and noticed 
how far it's mouth reached back on each side of it's head. Ward 
saw that I was looking into the eyes of the snake and yelled — 
"Anna, get away from there!" I heard him but I wanted to look 
a little longer, so I didn't move. When he yelled at me the sec- 

ond time and I still didn't move, he ran and gave me a shove 
that nearly knocked me over. As we started on toward the 
house, he said, "That snake was charmin' you." "It was not!" I 
said. "Then why didn't you get away from it?" he asked. I 
retorted, "Because I didn't want to." And so the argument 
went all the way home. 

The Joneses, who lived in the dug-out, had some very 
unpleasant experiences with snakes. In the night, snakes 
would come slithering down the hillside and into the thatched 
roof. Sometimes the snakes would lose their hold and drop on 
someone's bed! Whoever was in the bed would lie still, but 
would yell for someone to get up and light a lamp and take care 
of the snake. 

One evening just about sundown, I was sent on an 
errand to the sod house. I was almost to the house when I saw 
the face of an animal crouched in the tumble weeds. As I 
looked, I saw a slight movement. I screamed, and ran. The 
whole family came out to meet me asking, "What's the matter, 
What's the matter?" I pointed toward the animal and said, 
"An animal!" They looked in the direction I had pointed and 
sure enough there was something! It had the face of a cow, but 
it had no body. It had big, red, eyes that seemed to shoot fire. 
When my family saw the hideous animal, my Mother turned 
to her Father and said excitedly, "You'd better get your gun. 
Grandfather hurried back into the house, got the gun, and we 
all started toward the animal. We got just about so close when 
Ward said, "Shoot! I saw it move! You better shoot!" Mother, 
still excited, as we all were, pleaded, "Pa, why don't you 
shoot?" Grandfather wanted to be a little closer. He wanted to 
hit it right between those two big red eyes. He stepped on a lit- 
tle closer, then took aim. We all stood with bated breath wait- 
ing to hear the report of the gun. About that time. Grandfather 
lowered the gun a bit, saying, "Wait a minute." Gazing intently 
at the animal, he said, "Why that's a piece of brown paper." 
Sure enough, it was a piece of brown paper standing on end 
and propped up by tumble weeds. Two holes were in the ] 


just the right size and in the right location for eyes. The sun 
vvasat the horizon, just the right position to shine through the 
holes, giving them the red look. The movement came from the 
gentle breeze. 

It was in late August that my mother "Proved up on her 
claim" and plans were made for our trip back to Bushnell, Illi- 
nois. We looked ahead to the return trip with pleasure. I 
handn't seen butter, or milk, or an egg in the six months that I 
had been in Kansas. After bidding our neighbors "Good-bye," 
we were on our way back to Bushnell, traveling by stagecoach 
and train. 

We arrived home just in time for my mother to start 
teaching the fall term at the Sperry School. She began where 
she had left off in the spring. Except for the memories we had, 
nothing had changed. During the following winter Mother 
received a letter from a man in Western Kansas, offering her 
one thousand dollars for her land. She accepted the offer. 

Time went by, and I often thought of the summer I had 
spent in Western Kansas. As the years rolled on I began to 
want to see the place where I had lived. When forty-nine years 
had passed, I decided I would see Western Kansas again. My 
husband and I made plans to drive to California by way of 
Ashland, Kansas, the next year, making it an even fifty years 
since I had lived there. In the latter part of August, we started 
our in our car. It was late forenoon when we reached Ashland. I 
went directly to the courthouse and found the clerk who kept 
the records. I gave him my name, the name of my grandfather, 
my mother, and the year that they had filed their claims. It 
didn't take long to find the record of their filing. The clerk 
said, "I know exactly where that land lays." He looked at his 
watch and then said, "Let's all get our dinner and then meet at 
your car and I'll go with you and help you find the place." I 
asked about the Clarks and if there were any of the Joneses or 
Curtises left. He said, "Delia Curtis is my wife, but she is visit- 
ing in Colorado just now." I asked if Willie Curtis was still liv- 
ing. He looked up and down the one main street saying, "Bill, 

why yes, he's our town Marshall, but I don't see him. He's 
probably gone home to dinner. I'll call him when 1 go home and 
tell him about you and have him come to the car when we get 
back from the country." As soon as we had our dinner, we 
returned to the car. The clerk arrived shortly and we were on 
our way to the farm that once belonged to my mother. As we 
rode along, I noticed that the country was pretty much the 
same. Wide open prairie, just as it had been fifty-years ago. 
There were no houses. There really was more of a road; in fact, 
there was a barbed wire fence along one side of this shadow of a 
road. Aside from that, it was the same wide open prairie. 

Soon the clerk said, "Now right about here is the land 
your mother once owned." Lucky for me that the clerk had 
come along and pointed out the place. The land seemed to be 
perfectly worthless, only good for cattle grazing. We drove 
back to Ashland, parked our car to one side of Main Street. 
Soon a tall, lanky, typical Westerner walked over to the car. 
The clerk introduced him. Yes, that WAS Willie Curtis! There 
were the same boyish features. We had c(uestions and answers 
for each other. Then he reached into his inside coat pocket and 
pulled out an old autograph album. He leafed through it until 
he came to the page that he was looking for. He handed it to 
me. There — on the page, scrawled in a little eight-year-old 
girl's hand-writing, was a verse. At the bottom of the page she 
had scribbled her name, Anna Hughbanks. I glanced at the top 
of the page, at the date: August 20, 1885. Today was August 20, 
1935 — fifty years to the day. After a few more questions and 
answers, I once more bid Willie Curtis, "Good-bye," and we 
were on our way to California. 

My summer in Western Kansas is part of the past, but 
the experience of the sod house, riding behind a yoke of oxen, 
and traveling in a stagecoach are cherished memories that I 
shall never forget. 



R. B. Hulsen 

In the twenties, the City of East MoHne had a large popu- 
lation of immigrants from the Low Countries of Europe. By 
far, the largest group was from Belgium. These folks were 
hard-working, frugal people. The mothers of many of our 
grade school classmates were employed as core-makers in the 
John Deere foundry and most of the fathers worked in the 
farm implement factories. Belgian families usually built 
fences around their yards and often planted gardens in both 
front and back. The walks were lined with flowers, but the bal- 
ance produced vegetables of all kinds to help reduce the family 
grocery bill. 

Most families had a small dog, often a fox terrier, inside 
the fence, whose duty was to protect the property. It took con- 
siderable courage for a visitor to open the front gate. We kids 
quickly learned we could get lots of noise out of a dog by run- 
ning down the sidewalk while holding a stick against the fence 
to make a machine gun-like tattoo. It was perhaps the school 
boys who conditioned these little animals to attack anything 
that walked or ran. 

One of the most exciting and satisfying hobbies and 
forms of recreation for many East Moline citizens was pigeon 
racing. The sport originates from the fact that homing pigeons 
have a built-in compass and will return to their homes even 
though they are transported far away in a dark box. When 
bred for speed and stamina, they can and do travel faster than 
any surface transportation known then or now. In those days 
our town always had one or more pigeon racing clubs. 

Pigeon racers built lofts or roosts, called coops, in the 
back yard near the alley. Pigeon coops were always at least two 
stories high. They were rooms of varying dimensions usually 
not larger than 12 by 12 feet set on stilts. In some buildings, 
the coops perched on four or more posts, and in others the bot- 
tom was enclosed to form a room for storing feed and other 

supplies. The coops were reached by a ladder or a stairs gener- 
ally on the outsicle of the structure. At least one wall had a 
number of openings at floor level where the birds could enter 
and depart at will. There was also an outside platform for 
take-offs and landings. The inside of the house was divided by 
wire or solid walls into areas for nesting, raising young birds, 
confining breeding stock and the mature racers. 

A pigeon racer's equipment was not only his racing birds 
but also a wicker basket about 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and 18 
inches deep. The basket had a carrying handle in the middle of 
the top. The top was hinged and could be completely opened. 
A man carrying a basket of pigeons was a common sight in 
East Moline. 

Another piece of equipment was a clock. The clock was 
not unlike the clocks carried for years by night watchmen on 
their rounds. It was carried by a shoulder strap and instead of 
being activated by a key, as a watchman's clock, it was acti- 
vated by a band worn by the pigeon on its leg. Racing pigeons 
were all banded as soon as they could fly. The bands were 
removed when the birds arrived home from a flight and 
inserted into the clock to record the exact time of arrival. This 
time could not be changed except with special tools kept at the 
club headquarters. 

Because most of the club members were workers in busi- 
ness or industry, pigeon races were usually on weekends. In my 
mind's eye, I can still see the mail and express wagons piled 
high with pigeon baskets at the Rock Island Railroad Station 
on Friday afternoons. Members of the club would take their 
birds entered in the race to be shipped with all of the others 
100, 200, 300 and even 500 miles from East Moline. Desig- 
nated employees or friends of the club would receive the birds 
from the train at the town from which the race began and 
release all of them at once at a designated time for the flight 

Every club member with one or more birds in the race 
could be seen on Sunday morning watching his pigeon coop for 


the return of the hirds. It is amazing how well these hreeders 
recognized flight characteristics of their own pigeons. As the 
hirds arrived, the owners scrambled up the steps to catch the 
bird, remove its band and insert it into the clock to establish 
the exact time of arrival. Then away to club headquarters, usu- 
ally a tavern, to compare the times, establish the winners, pay 
off or collect the bets and discuss the details of the sport. 

The breeding of pigeons that could fly faster with more 
stamina, how to feed and condition birds before a race, as well 
as the rearing of young birds were always red-hot topics. The 
hazards were storms, adverse winds and attacks by raptors. 
Hawks and eagles or accidents meant the loss of the bird, and 
some never returned. Others delayed by storms, even for days, 
would eventually return home. 

Very few experiences could be more spirit-lifting for an 
East Moline pigeon racer than to have a winner on Sunday. I 
recall being completely flabbergasted at how fast a pigeon 
released 300 miles away could fly home. It was a noble sport 
participated in by bright and gentle men with no opportunity 
for bookies. 


George R. Stuckcy* 

The Cannon Ball Trail went right by our house. In the 
first decade of the twentieth century, we did not travel to cul- 
ture, culture came to us. That hot August day in 1907, the Can- 
non Ball Trail brought culture to me. 

The Cannon Ball Trail! Remember those trails? We had 
just been introduced to that new invention, the automobile. 
With it, our horizons broadened. Up until then, getting more 
than ten miles away from home was not among the probabili- 
ties. We did not own a car, but we knew about them. Even those 
earliest automobiles could eat up ten miles in half an hour, if 

•This was written by Katherine R Stuckev. 

the driver didn't get lost or caught in a rain storm. Excepting 
in cities, all roads were dirt. They followed the boundary lines 
of farms, or the railroad right-of-way. Hence, if people were 
going to get farther away from home than ten miles, they 
needed some guidelines. The Cannon Ball Trail was one of 

The Cannon Ball Trail extended from Chicago to 
Omaha, Nebraska. The way was marked by red cannon balls 
being painted on telephone poles along the route. Not every 
telephone pole was painted. The signs were about six feet up 
from the ground, and frequent enough to keep one on the trail. 
However, one had to be careful at corners to see whether the 
trail turned right or left, or went straight ahead. Our tarm was 
on this trail, about one hundred fifty miles southwest of Chi- 

Dad bought the farm, which we now call "Windswept," in 

1906, when I was six years old. On this special day, in August 

1907, about a year and a half after we moved there. Dad and I 
were in the barnyard when a man came walking up our drive- 
way. We could tell by his dress that he was not a native of our 
community. He was slender, and wore dark trousers and a red, 
short-sleeved shirt. He had a cap on his head. His dress was 
what we would call "roust-about" raiment, the dress of some- 
one who did not stay in one place very long. The colors were 
gaudy: his clothing was casual. 

He did not tell us his name, but greeted my father 
politely, and said, "We are traveling with a small circus. Our 
animals are thirsty. I see that you have a windmill and a water- 
ing tank. Will you let us water our animals at your watering 
tank? I will pay you ten dollars for this service, as you will have 
to clean your tank thoroughly, because your cows and horses 
will not drink where elephants, camels, and zebras have been 

Elephants! Camels! Zebras! I had seen a circus perform- 
ance. In those days, a circus visited most of the midwestern 
communities each summer. My dad hitched up the team to the 

surrey, and we made the twenty-mile trip to Galesburg to see 
the circus. It was one of the high points of summer. However, 
seeing a circus in Galesburg, and having those animals right in 
our barnyard was quite another matter. 

Dad answered, "Yes, you may water your animals at the 

I went with Dad out to the road to get a closer view of this 
phenomenon. It was a very small circus. Most of the animals 
were very old. The elephants, camels, zebras, ponies, llamas, 
water buffaloes, and ostrich were walking. Some of them were 
pulling cages which contained lions, tigers, and small animals. 
Several other men were walking with the circus animals. Some 
of these men were pulling the smaller cages. They, too, were 
dressed in casual but gaudy clothing. 

You can imagine my curiosity as Dad and I walked out to 
t he road. It was a hot day. The elephants were scooping up dust 
from the road with their trunks and blowing it over their backs 
to shoo the flies away. The flies flew up, but as soon as the dust 
settled, the flies settled again on the backs of the elephants. 

"Don't touch anything," cautioned one of the handlers. 

The animals who were waiting got their food by grazing 
along the roadsides. There was always plenty of grass there. 
There was grass, but large streams of running water were not 
plentiful in our area, so the animals were very thirsty. The 
handlers herded the animals, who were walking down the 
driveway and into our barnyard. They did not bring them in 
any special order. These animals had been together for a long 
time. Camels could drink with llamas, and zebras could drink 
with ponies. The great interest of them all was to satisfy their 
thirst. While they were drinking, the handlers talked with us 
about some of the problems along the way. As the land in our 
area is rolling, there are many small bridges in the roadway 
over the small streams. The animals were very reluctant to use 
these bridges. As the land was fenced, it was not possible to 
ford these streams, and the caravan was delayed every time 
they came to one of these bridges. While they were talking, the 

handlers filled containers with water and carried them to the 
animals in the cages. When all were satisfied, they filled the 
containers again and stored them in the wagons for a time 
when water would not be available. 

With a great deal of activity, the caravan was 

Who led the procession, where they came from, where 
they were going, how far they traveled in a day, these were 
questions which did not enter my mind. It was enough for me 
to have such close contact with circus animals, to see them 
closely, to smell them, to watch their peculiar habits. They 
went north from our farm. I watched them until they were out 
of sight; then Dad and I went to clean out the watering tank. 
Our cows and horses were a bit skittish about drinking from 
the tank for a few days, but I had memories to last me for a life- 
time. Since then, I have pondered. I have heard that small cir- 
cuses often traveled through the country-side of Europe. Was 
this circus patterned after them? 

Never again would this happen. Only once did circus ani- 
mals set their feet on our farm. Once they went down the drive- 
way of Windswept. Once they drank from our watering tank. 

The Cannon Ball Trail has almost passed into oblivion. 
It has been replaced with super-highways and road maps. The 
tank is gone, but the windmill is still there. But sometimes on a 
hot August day, as I sit on the porch here, in my mind's eye, I 
look across to the driveway, and see again those camels, 
zebras, elephants, and water buffaloes wending their way 
down the driveway to the watering tank by the windmill. 



Louise Young 

It was with the best of good intenticjns t hat our well-to-do 
Uncle G.C. brought us a tiny, brindle English bull-dog whom 
we christened Mickey. He had a near-human sense of humor, 
and no citizen of Bardolph escaped his attention. 

Since Mickey possessed a religious nature, he felt duty- 
bound to attend any and all available religious services in 
town, but he especially leaned toward Methodism. One Sun- 
day morning, as my sister was at the communion rail, she was 
horrified to hear his well-known panting as he hurried toward 
her. To her relief, someone quietly led him to the door. Four 
Sundays later, I was playing the piano for Sunday School exer- 
cises when I detected an unmusical sound behind me. I beheld 
a racing grey cat with Mickey in full pursuit. They were cir- 
cling the piano at a speed guaranteed not to improve the skill 
of the pianist. 

Among his more mundane social pursuits, Mickey 
attended the cooking demonstrations given by a salesman for 
ranges. Making not a sound, the uninvited guest sat in the 
front row, giving full attention to the demonstration until 
samples of oven-fried steak were passed around. Being 
reminded of his presence, the demonstrator gave him a share 
which he gobbled appreciatively, but I don't believe he bought 
a range. 

Like many animals, Mickey seemed to recognize some 
people who were a httle different. One of Bardolph's most 
peculiar was the opinionated woman who ran the dry goods 
store. She was one of his frequent targets. One day, she was 
bent over unpacking a case of thin, dainty cups to add to her 
stock. Her copious rear end was tempting, and Mickey's resis- 
tance was low. Suddenly Mickey, having no respect for man or 
women or china, bumped this target; and both he and several 
of the store buyers went sprawling among the china with dis- 
astrous results. Poor Dad— another bill to pay! 

Another of Mickey's female victims was Citizen Rosie. 
Intending to go by train to Macomb, she set her luggage in 
front of the post office while she went to get her mail. When 
she returned, the valese was nowhere to be seen until she 
noticed Mickey standing across a sea of mud holding the miss- 
ing suitcase in his mouth. Bereft of her luggage, Rosie 
screamed, "Harry, make him bring back my suitcase." Know- 
ing that calling Mickey wouldn't suffice, father heroically 
waded across the sea of mud and returned with the suitcase 
just as the CP and Q roared into town. 

One of Mickey's other memorable moments was the time 
he took it upon himself to visit one of Bardolph's senior citi- 
zens to give him last rites. Mickey raced into the sick man's 
bedroom and stole the covers off his bed. As Mickey was being 
pursued, the poor old man died, alone and coverless. 

Until his death, Mickey continued to add spice to our 
lives and to the lives of Bardolph's citizenry. It seemed ironic 
that he was shot and killed by an angry owner as he was visit- 
ing one of his several girl friends. 


Robert L. TefertiUar 

Times were tough on the Illinois prairie farm land in the 
depression years of the late 1930's, although farm folk were a 
bit more fortunate than many of their city cousins because 
there was always plenty to eat, thanks to a large garden and 
the farm woman's knack for canning. 

Naturally many farm families had to make do with kero- 
sene lamps, old coal stoves and that very essential little 
shanty with the carved quarter moon above the door. 

The very isolation of country living in the past, and with- 
out the modern home entertainment diversions of television, 
VCR's and tape recorders, required country people to make up 


their own entertainment and recreation. This was especially 
true in the winter. The automobile, if the farm family even 
owned one, was ancient and would rarely start at any tempera- 
ture below 20 degrees. Old Dobbin' had to be used for any out- 
ing. It would be years later that he was replaced by a horse of 
another color, a Pinto or Mustang. 

One winter weekend in the late 19.30's is forever 
imbedded in memory. It was during the holidays and my wife, 
myself and her two sisters and their husbands were visiting 
the old homestead. Amazingly we in-laws got along quite well 
and genuinely loved my wife's parents, Cora and Jay. 

It was a happy group that set down to a good, hot country 
supper. It really wasn't very cold; there was even surly dog 
growling thunder in the distance. However, during and shortly 
after the meal the temperature dropped a remarkable twenty 
degrees. That's when it started to snow . . . and snow . . . and 

Around ten o'clock my father-in-law came in from 
checking on the animals in the barn. 

"I think this is going to be a ring-tail blizzard of a storm. 
We may be snowed in for a couple of days," he announced, 
shrugging out of his sheepskin. 

"That's not so bad," my brother-in-law Bob happily 
replied. "We got plenty of food and we all love pinochle. What 
more could you ask? Let 'er snow." 

Bob got his wish as it snowed all night and all the next 
day; we were snowed in, isolated from everything in a lovely, 
lonely little island of white. 

The pinochle game started Saturday morning. There 
wasn't much else you could do after breakfast except shovel a 
path to the barn, feed the animals, make sure the coal buckets 
were full and keep the pump primed with hot tea-kettle water. 

Since there were eight of us, we had two tables, a champi- 
onship table and a losers' table. As long as you won, you stayed 
at the championship table. The losers had to move to the other 
side, while the winners at the losers' table got a crack at the 

champs. By the way, the championship table was near the 
stove, which made winning an added incentive. 

I don't remember when the games started getting deadly 
serious. It must have been after Christmas Eve, because no 
one thought of taking a break to open the many presents 
under the fresh pine tree cut from the timber just across the 
road. Of course, everyone knew their presents were hand- 
made or knitted garments. Come to think of it now, these were 
the nicest presents I have ever received. 

The card games had all started in high good humour, 
especially for my partner, my sister-in-law Madge, and me. We 
couldn't seem to lose or be moved from the warm champion- 
ship table. I do know we had about a 26-game lead when 
remarks started flying about like "Shuffle the cards better," 
"Get another deck," and "For crying out loud, don't I even get a 

Naturally I was in high spirits as Madge and I were roll- 
ing along . . . until about two o'clock Sunday morning. That's 
when Jay trumped my partner's ace. 

"Hey, come on Jay," I shouted. "You can't rub your ring to 
show Dorie you don't have any diamonds and then she leads 
them and you trump. She knew what to lead. Thou shall not 
trump my partner's ace with such a cheap shot!" 

"Well what about you? Rubbing your heart all the time 
and then Madgie makes hearts trump," he thundered back. It 
was a Mexican stand-off. 

What had been a close knit family was disintegrating 
into distrust and suspicion. We played and played. It snowed 
and snowed. The pinochle marathon was out of hand, and the 
games were all close by Monday morning. 

What finally saved the relationship, the friendship and 
our sanity was that it finally stopped snowing and the country 
lane was opened. The game ended. I think everyone was 



Floy K. Chapman 

During the first decade of tlie twentieth century, we hved 
on a small farm in the fringe of timber that separated the great 
region from the bluffs and the Illinois River bottom. It was a 
close-knit community of 26 homes, a school house, Pleasant 
Dale Church, and a Justice of the Peace. Mail came by Rural 
Free Delivery. Not far away was the little town of Walkerville, 
truly a pioneer town with its quota of small houses, saloon, 
and stories of shootings, murder and crime. 

We were related to almost everyone in our school and 
immediate neighborhood, and there were rules of behavior 
which women followed: 1) We went to church on Sunday 
morning. 2) We learned the ten commandments as children 
and tried to abide by them. 3) Women wore long hair and black 
or dull colored clothing. 4) We did not smoke, drink, swear or 
run wild. 5) We did not play cards. Sometimes the young men 
would step aside, but never the law-abiding Christian 

Sometimes we would hear our father talking about a 
neighbor who could not leave cards alone and gambled the hog 
money away or failed to milk his cows until 10 o'clock in the 
morning because he was so involved. It was a scandalous thing 
to be avoided by all decent, self-respecting people who were 
trying to get ahead in the world. 

No wonder I was amazed to see my grandmother and the 
boy, Richard, who lived with them, having a great time playing 
cards at the dining room table. Grandpa was sitting on a rock- 
ing chair nearby reading the St. Louis paper. When I 
approached Grandma asking about it all, she began to laugh. 
"Oh, this is not a card game. It's Flinch and nothing but some 
cardboards with numbers on them. Our new teacher uses them 
to teach the children the numbers and how to count. It is noth- 
ing like real card playing." 

"Dreadful waste of time," said Grampa, "but harmless, I 


Soon everyone in the neighborhood, young and (.)ld, was 
playing Flinch. It helped to pass many a long tiresome eve- 

When we moved to Virden in 1910, the game had pre- 
ceded us. It was a slow game, but quiet, so our parents did not 
object when school work was done. Personally, I did not under- 
stand why the cards with kings, queens, and hearts were so 
evil, while those with plain numbers were harmless. About 
1918, Rook became popular. It was a little faster and was popu- 
lar for several years. No money ever changed hands, and 
church people played with clear conscience. 

About 1925, some people began playing Rummy, 
Pinochle, and Crazy 8. Other things were happening after the 
boys came home from war. Women were cutting their hair, 
shortening their dresses, even dancing. The grandmothers 
were as shocking in their behavior as many of the girls. What 
was the world coming to? 


Lucius Herbert Valentine 

President Reagan and I both graduated in 1932, he from 
Eureka College and I from the Rushville High School. After he 
was elected President of the U.S., he remarked to the public 
that he may not have lived on the other side of the tracks but 
he had lived so close to them that he could hear the whistle 
blow. Well, Mr. Reagan, I would like to say that I lived so far on 
the other side of the tracks that I could not even hear the whis- 
tle blow. In those days you had to have two years of foreign lan- 
guage to enter a college, so I had struggled through two years 
of French in preparation for college, but the depression was in 
high gear at this time. 

I finally got a job five miles from Eureka, but it was on a 


dairy farm, and the hours of work were from 3:30 a.m. to 10 
p.m. I soon saw there would be no college for me here, so I quit 
and found work in Peoria in the hope that I could go to Bradley 
Polytechnical Institute, but money was too scarce. I tried 
every job I could get. 

While in Peoria, I tried salesmanship. I got a job selling 
Watkins' Products all over Peoria, and rode the street cars any 
where I wanted to go. I was rooming with Mr. and Mrs. 
William Tweedel in Peoria Heights on West Moneta Street 
when one evening I had a death defying experience which I will 
never forget. 

One night when I arrived at my room on West Moneta 
Street, I found a note that said for me to come over to the 
Bartons, who lived six or seven blocks away, as they were hav- 
ing a fish supper. The Bartons were friends of the Tweedels, 
and I had been over there with Bill Tweedel once or twice to 
the back yard where the Bartons kept two jjolice dogs chained 
at their back porch. 

It was very dark when I came to the street on which the 
Bartons lived. This street had houses on the right side only 
and a weed field on my left. As I proceeded down this street, I 
heard footsteps in the yards going the same direction that I 
was; and when I stopped to listen, the footsteps stopped too. 
They sounded so close to me, and I decided they must be a 
horse and someone was trying to scare me. So I walked slowly 
and when this creature got in front of a window with a bright 
light shining, I saw that it was a lion about thirty feet from me. 
It appeared that he was stalking me. My hair was pulling up as 
1 started running. Each step I took I visualized would be my 
last, and the lion would drag me off into the weed field for his 

I had been fairly fast in track at Rushville High, winning 
several ribbons and a track letter, but never had I run this fast. 
Fearing the police dogs at the back door, I got to the front 
porch door and, thank God, it was unlocked. I must have made 
a lot of noise as I slammed the door shut and hung on to the 

door knob trying to get my breath. Mrs. Barton and Mrs. 
Tweedel came from another room and turned the light on. 
Both asked "What's the matter with you?" I couldn't talk for a 
while, and when I told them I had just seen a lion, they both 
laughed and thought I was drunk. They told me to tell the men 
who were dressing fish in the back room. They made fun of me, 
too, and I guess I gave up trying to convince any of them. 

A few days later the Bartons walked over to where I 
stayed on West Moneta for supper and after supper the four of 
them played cards. I sat and watched for a while and then 
excused myself and went to bed. 

I was asleep when the Tweedels came into my room and 
shook me awake. They were as excited as I had been. They had 
driven the Bartons home in their Model A sedan and when 
they turned the corner onto the Barton's street, that lion 
crossed the street in front of their car and all of them saw it. 
They said Mrs. Barton screamed loud enough to wake every- 
one in the Heights. She had walked up and down that street 
many times after dark. They all apologized to me, and the 
watched the newspapers expecting to see where the lion came 
from. To my knowledge, they never did see anything in the 
papers, but I assure you I never did walk that street again! 


Wilbert Weitzel 

Many years ago when the Weitzel family came to this 
farm, the buildings sat back in the field away from the road. 
They were poor people and had to live in an old log cabin that 
probably had been built by some member of the Knox family. 

Now this log cabin was haunted by a spook. A spook is 
not visible. You may hear it move, feel it around you and feel 
that you see an image. It has the power to do things that can- 
not be explained. The reason a spook does these tricks is 



My fatherwas born in this old lot; cabin that was haunted 
by the spook. In later years, the cabin was too small for the 
family, so a frame house consisting of two rooms was built on 
one end of the cabin. One room was used as a parlor, and this 
building still stands today. It is the old garage standing by our 
house. Sometimes, Mandy the dog likes to sleep in it. 

Now the spook had more places to roam, and the parlor 
was the favorite place to haunt. When I was a little boy, my 
father told me stories about the spook that made my hair 
stand straight up. I was twelve years old before I could get up 
enough nerve to enter this house at night. 

Now back to the spook and the little old house in the 
field. At times, the door to the parlor was locked and no one 
could get it open. No one knew who locked it, and a few min- 
utes later the door would open by itself. Who done that? The 
spook done it. Some nights, footsteps were heard in this room, 
and the next morning the parlor was topsy-turvy. Chairs were 
upset, and the pictures hanging on the wall were tilted at a 
crazy angle. Who done that? The spook done it. 

On dark nights when the wind would howl around the 
cabin, whoo, whoo, there were footsteps in the parlor that 
sounded like some sort of dance and chant. Then came the 
sounds of someone sobbing and crying. Who was in there? 
The spook was in there. Now remember this, the spook was 
never seen by anyone. It would do things right before your eyes 
and be invisible. 

One morning, grandmother Weitzel got up early to get 
breakfast. She went to the cupboard, and the cupboard was 
bare. The day before, she had baked bread, some biscuits and 
several pies, and they were all gone. 

Going into the parlor suffering remorse for the loss of 
food, her eyes fell on something shocking. Chairs had been 
piled on the table and here were stacked her loaves of bread, 
biscuits and pies. Who done that? The spook done it. 

Once I heard my father tell this storv to mv mother. My 

mother laughed and said there probably were a family of rac- 
coons or pack rats in the attic that done that. My father was 
serious and said, "Not so. If it had been animals, they would 
have chopped everything up and ate it." Not one crust of bread 
was broken nor one crumb lost from the pies and biscuits. 

Now believe this. Sometimes at night, sounds came from 
the kitchen of the clattering of dishes and pots and pans. 
Nothing was ever found broken. The spook did not work every 
night. Sometime it would not show up for months, and then 
suddenly it would come back and haunt the entire house. 

Now we come to the year 1892. The Weitzel children were 
very happy, for their father was going to build a new house this 
year. It would be a big house with many rooms, and best of all it 
would set alongside the old Chicago Road. No more living in 
the haunted house back in the field. 

There was a lot of work to be done, and everyone pitched 
in and done what they could. Lime rock had to be hauled for 
the foundation from the quarry at Lee Center. Lumber had to 
be unloaded from the boxcars at Bureau Siding. Many carpen- 
ters were hired. Everything was peaceful, for the spook had 
not shown up for many months. 

The men made good progress on the house, and then one 
night the spook returned to the cabin in the field. I suppose my 
grandfather made a remark about the spook, and it was over- 
heard by one of the carpenters. "Hah! I don't believe in spooks. 
Tonight we will set up and catch the spook." Four men volun- 
teered to set in the parlor that night. They were brave men, 
tough and strong with nerves of steel. When it was dark, they 
lit a lamp and placed it on the parlor table. Then one man sat 
in each corner of the room. They would see everything. About 
midnight, the room became very silent. It seemed so still that 
the men thought they were seated in a tomb. The pictures on 
the wall started to sway. Chairs started to move and change 
positions. It felt as if someone or something was moving 
about, but the men could see nothing. A small vase standing 
on a shelf started to move around. Then the lamp on the table 


appeared to be picked up and carried about the room although 
it never left the table. Suddenly, for no reason at all, the lamp 
on the table went out and something swished about the room. 
Four brave men scrambled for the door and headed for the 
barn. There they stayed the rest of the night. 

The next morning, the men were rather silent. They did 
not admit they were scared. They said they could sleep better 
on the hay than sitting in a chair. Finally, one of the men did 
tell what they had seen, but he could not prove what hap- 
pened. He did not know why the lamp went out when there was 
plenty of oil in the bowl. 

(As a young boy, my father heard the carpenter tell of the 
incident that happened in the parlor. I am trying to write this 
just as my father told it to me.) 

With the sawing of wood and driving of nails, work went 
on with the building of the new house. The spook was no 
longer discussed. 

The house was nearing completion, and perhaps within a 
month the Weitzel family would move into the new home. One 
morning. Anna Weitzel decided to wash the windows in the old 
house once more. (This Anna was my father's older sister.) 
With soap, water and cloth, she went to the outside of the 
house and started to wash the parlor windows first. The 
shades on the parlor windows were generally pulled low for the 
better furniture was in this room. Suddenly, the roll shade on 
the inside of the window Anna was washing snapped up. There 
in the window stood the image of the spook. This was too much 
for poor Anna. She turned, fainted and fell to the ground. She 
was carried into the house by her mother and revived. When 
she was able to talk, she tried to describe the image she saw. It 
was only a dim outline of something, and it had a broad, weird 
looking face. 

Did Anna really see the image or imagine it? Did she 
faint from frights or was she in a weak physical condition? 
How come after this incident the spook vanished and nothing 
was ever molested again? These are questions I cannot 


My father told the story many times. "Anna was washing 
a parlor window when the shade flew up and there stood the 
thing and Anna fainted. The spook was never heard of again." 


Fern Moate Hancock 

My father was a "family" doctor, a veteran in a vanishing 
age. His name, Dr. Thomas Moate, Physician and Surgeon, 
was printed on a brass plate which was on the front door of our 
home for over fifty years. It was my task to polish it every Sat- 

Thomas was born in Doncaster, Lancashire, England on 
November 15, 1871. When he was three years old, the family 
moved to the U.S.A. and settled on Rooks Creek on Rt. 116 in 
Livingston County, Illinois. His father was a wheelwright and 
he chose this place where folks were moving westward. Soon 
Thomas had the usual boyhood chores, enlivened by diving 
and swimming in Rooks Creek. 

Eventually his father was able to buy a farm and moved 
to the farm, which is three miles north of Weston, Illinois on 
Route 24. Here the boy dreamed his dreams. When his mother 
would say, "Tommy, run to the outhouse and then get to bed," 
he would say, "When I get big, I'm going to have a pipe inside so 
I won't have to go outside." 

The dream that surprised his family most was when he 
said, "I'm going to be a doctor and make people well, and be a 
surgeon, too!" This from a boy who hid under the bed when 
hogs were butchered was greeted derisively. 

This dream became a reality. One fall when he had 
"served his time" (a boy owed his father his labor until he was 
twenty-one) my grandfather gave him a watch and said, "Now 


you're on your own. I've done all I can for you." My father said 
those were the kindest words his father could have said when 
he was presented this watch. 

He went to Chicago and enrolled in Northwestern Ihii- 
versity. He worked his way through school with a variety of 
jobs. I remember his telling of carrying papers. He somehow 
earned a bicycle, and on his route he sometimes hung on to the 
end of a dray-wagon (not a truck!) and saved some energy. 

He also had some financial aid from a brother who chose 
to farm, which he later repaid. 

He graduated in June, 1897, and said the gown served a 
very useful purpose: there was no distinction between the rich 
man and the poor man. 

He located in Gridley. Illinois, also on Route 24. His fam- 
ily lived about eighteen miles east on the "home place." He 
served his family all through his busy life. I remember the days 
he was called to his mother's bedside, and he took me along. 
The drive seemed endless as our horse trotted smoothly along. 

He lived in the rooms he rented for his office. He placed 
his few books on shelves, spread out his surgical equipment, 
and soon had a trickle of patients. He ate his meals in t he hotel 
where he met the girl he eventually married. 

One day in 1901 he was in the country making a call when 
a fire broke out in Gridley. He lost most of his belongings in 
this fire, even his beloved violin "Gretchen." Undeterred, he 
started over. 

He opened boils, performed tonsillectomies and other 
minor surgery in this office. It was difficult to accept that nei- 
ther the Peoria or Bloomington hospitals would employ him as 
a surgeon. They listed the difficulty of his getting to either 
place because of the distance, too far for horse and buggy. 
Train travel was the only alternative. 

In the winter the roads would be frozen into ruts. Spring 
or fall they might be seas of mud, and they were hot and dusty 
in the summer. I have a picture of him mounted on his saddle 
horse, wearing boots, carrying saddle bags, with the horses tail 

tied up. When the mud was very deep, he'd rent a team of 
horses and a rig. 

There were no telephones in rural areas, so a member of 
the family had to ride in to contact the doctor. Then he had to 
hitch up and go to the farm. About this time two brothers 
started a telephone company in Gridley. My father always car- 
ried a telephone in his buggy, showed it the family and told 
them how useful it would be when they needed a doctor. He 
always said he "sowed" telephones in the Gridley area. 

Many of his cases were childbirth. Babies always seem to 
come at night. Many times he would attend the mother all 

Then there were runaways. A horse would be frightened 
and despite the driver hanging on to the reins, the horse would 
take the bit in his teeth and dash off. 

I remember one such incident well. Every young man's 
dream was to have a spirited driving horse and a shining new 
buggy to bring his best girl to town on Saturday night to show 
them off. This particular time the horse ran off and dumped 
his passengers. The girl's head struck the sidewalk and she 
had a severe head gash. My father attended her. The next 
morning, all the children in the neighborhood gathered to see 
where the pool of blood had been. Someone had thoughtfully 
covered it with dust. 

Other Saturday night cases might be the results of 
drunken brawls, such as broken bones or smashed faces. I 
don't remember knifings. 

As my father was also a "justice of the peace" (an office 
we no longer have), sometimes his waiting room was a court 
room where justice was impartially administered. 

The "flu epidemic" of 1918-1919 was another memorable 
time. My father would start his rounds with a team and a rig 
rented from the livery stable with arrangements to be met by a 
fresh team at a prescribed time and place. He'd be gone from 
early morning until night. 

One chore we had was to put a slab of soapstone in the 


oven to be thoroughly heated. It was then wrapped in a blanket 
to hold the heat and placed on the floor ofthe carriage to keep 
the doctor's feet warm. 

Eventually my father got a Ford, the second one in 
Gridley. This early car required good driving conditions. 
When it was muddy or sticky, Illinois mud would roll up on the 
wheel clear up to the fender so the wheel couldn't turn. Then 
one had to borrow a wooden fence post and poke the mud out. 

In winter my father jacked the car up in the garage, 
brought the battery and the wheels into the basement and 
resorted to the horse. 

Eventually roads were improved, first with gravel, and 
finally by black-topping them. Now there are very few dirt 

Professionalism throughout most of his fifty years of 
active practice was very good. Doctors didn't charge other doc- 
tors or their families for services rendered. I remember one of 
the doctors my father treated, who, upon his recovery, came 
and presented him with a fine watch. Another time my father 
missed his twenty-fifth class reunion to accompany another 
doctor to the hospital for surgery. Toward the end of his active 
years, two young doctors came to town. Neither had anything 
good to say ofthe other. Finally my father called them into his 
office to give them some advice. In conclusion he said, "If you 
fellows keep running each other down, the public will think 
we're all a bunch of quacks." 

My father kept up on the many changes in medical prac- 
tice. He was an early proponent of vaccinations and immuni- 

After the advent ofthe car there occurred an incident I'd 
like to recall. An only son of wealthy parents needed an appen- 
dectomy. They were afraid of hospitals! So my father made 
arrangements for a surgeon from Peoria and his nurse to 
assist in this surgery. A room was thoroughly cleaned. The 
surgeon, his nurse, and my father performed this surgery in 
the farm house. The bov recovered nicelv. 

Although my father healed many people he lost his wife 
to galloping consumption when she was thirty, despite his best 
efforts to cure her. He raised two daughters with the help of 
housekeepers for eight years. He then remarried and had a son 
who served in the navy during W.W. II. 

Before my father retired, he studied blood chemistry. He 
never quit learning. After he had retired, those two young men 
he had counseled were "called up" to the service, so he prac- 
ticed until they returned. Still, he said at the close of his life, "I 
didn't set mv sights high enough." His life ended on May 29, 


Lydia Jo Huntley Boston 

Today he might be called an entrepreneur, but back in 
the mid-1930's Dad was just an average working man trying to 
make a living for his family. Like many another working man 
in those hard times, he needed a job, but was willing to work at 
anything. Resisting suggestions that the family should go on 
relief. Dad would say, "I may be down, but I'm not out and 
something will turn up." 

The summer of 1934 found us back living in Nauvoo. A 
carpenter by trade was of little value where no building was 
going on and little, if any, repair work was being done. Dad's 
latest venture, of cutting trees on an island near Burlington 
and taking rafts of logs to the basket factories there and to 
Keokuk, had been cut short by an accident on the river. It was 
time to begin again. 

From a mail order catalog Dad had secured a hand 
grinder and, borrowing a horse and buggy, started out through 
the nearby countryside offering to sharpen scissors and 
knives for 10(t each. Then he began to sharpen a few hand saws 
which netted 2bt. When our family moved up on Mulholland 


Street, it was much handier for folks coming into town to leave 
their sharpening needs. We kids often woke up to the screech, 
screech sound of Dad filing a saw fastened to the shelf he had 
made in the kitchen window. We were often sent to the local 
hardware store for files, with the admonition, "Take your time 
a going, but hurry back," which to Dad meant "I need this, so 
hurry!" In the summer Dad built a work shelf on the catalpa 
tree in the back yard. When he bought a Model T Ford, he 
attached a shelf to the back of it, and by jacking up the car and 
running it, with a belt attached to the pulley on the grindstone, 
he now had a power-driven stone which enabled him to do 
more easier. Now he could also gum crosscut saws and sharpen 
mower sickles, hand sickles, scythes, axes, and corn knives. In 
winter ice skates were also brought in to be sharpened. 

Things were looking up for the family after Dad secured 
a job with the bridge-building crew when the scenic highway 
between Nauvoo and Hamilton was being built. However, 
emergency surgery kept Dad in the hospital for three weeks 
and off the job most of the summer. The poems and Scripture 
verses which Mother posted on the walls at home served to 
remind us that God was still looking after us through all the 
trying and difficult times. Dad often quoted his uncle, from 
whom he had learned the carpenter trade: "Something always 
happens fifteen minutes before it's too late." And Mother 
would quote from Psalm 37:25: "Yet have I not seen the right- 
eous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Their philosophy 
of life was that God would take care of us if we tried, and right - 
eous living should be the direction of our lives regardless of the 
circumstances in which we might find ourselves. 

Dad bought a disc sharpener, using a Maytag gasoline 
engine designed to run washing machines for his power source 
to operate the sharpener. The disc was taken apart and the 
gangs fastened in the machine, which turned it while he held 
the cutting tool in his hands. He was not the first one to have a 
disc sharpener, but he worked it with a diligence borne of need. 
He didn't take much stock in the ones that only ground the 

blades, as they didn't stay sharp long enough. "A farmer with 
stalks to cut needs a disc that stays sharp until the job is done," 
he reasoned. As the country began to work its way out of the 
depression. Dad worked his way into a business that chal- 
lenged him. To persuade a reluctant farmer that he needed his 
disc sharpened was a victory Dad did not take lightly. He 
delighted in telling how he finally persuaded a doubtful farmer 
to try it. He was thrilled when the satisfied farmer became a 
steady customer. 

How excited we were when Dad decided a telephone was 
essential to his business. The painted circle saw hanging on 
the front of the house proclaimed "HUNTLEY'S SHARPEN- 
ING SER'VICE." A firm believer in advertising. Dad often had 
cards or leaflets printed to distribute, listing what he could 
sharpen, which soon included lawnmowers. Letters and post- 
cards arrived addressed simply to "The Disc Sharpener." Once 
a hurried farmer forgot to sign his last name or address to his 
urgent request, but Dad eventually figured it out and got the 
disc done in time. 

Dad's solution to the World War II gas rationing problem 
was to purchase a small, used house trailer and leave it in a 
farmer's lot while he worked that particular neighborhood. By 
then he was working in Hancock and McDonough counties as 
well as parts of Adams, Henderson, Warren, Fulton and 
Schuyler, and on occasion, ever further. He dismissed sugges- 
tions that he should get a higher paying war job with, "That 
will last only as long as the war." He had found his niche, and 
he wasn't about to surrender it. 

The family's hopes and dreams collapsed when Mother 
died eleven days after major surgery in the Spring of 1943. A 
month later I had emergency surgery. Dad took my brother, 
Rus, with him for the summer's work while my sister, Lois, was 
nursemaid to me while I recovered. Dad determined that all 
three of us, as usual, should go to church camp and we did. I 
was soon back to work and Lois and Rus back in school. Rus 
did odd jobs around the neighborhood after school and Lois 


worked as relief telephone operator one night a week and at a 
grocery store after school. 

My sister and I both married in 1946, and when our 
brother graduated from High School he went to Evanstown to 
a self-help college. In 1947 Dad bought the blacksmith shop in 
Colchester and then that was the hub of his growing busi- 

Dad remarried in 1951, establishing a home to be visited 
by children and grandchildren. With the acquisition of the 
blacksmith shop Dad added shear sharpening to his service 
and pioneered a process known as hard coating, which applied 
a new surface to plows and cultivator shovels. Even as his 
health began to fail. Dad did not lose his zest for work. He 
would often reflect on the humble beginnings of his business 
and express gratitude that we had "made it through some 
rough times." 

The integrity of the farmer was underscored by the fact 
that in over thirty years of sharpening discs Dad never 
received a bad check. In the early years he often traded work 
for wood, or for meat if the farmer was butchering, or even for 

The TV news reporting team of Huntley-Brinkley and 
the Huntley Sharpening Service proved confusing to one 
farmer, but Dad never noticed until he was at the bank endors- 
ing the check that it was made out to Chet Huntley. Chet and 
Dad did share a common ancestor, John Huntley, the immi- 
grant who settled in the Boston, Mass. Bay Colony, circa 1647. 

When Dad sold the shop and retired to fishing in Argyle 
Lake and selling bait at home, he still sharpened a disc now 
and then. He just couldn't give up. When his wife died in 1968, 
he bought a mobile home and moved it to our farm near 
Burnside to live out his remaining days. He slowed down sig- 
nificantly following surgery that fall, but he did one last disc 
for a long-time customer even though it took him several days 
to do it. Taking meals with our family, he would then retire to 
his home to watch TV and rest. He relived in memorv the days 

when he could work sharpening discs for his farmer friends 
and hard coating shears for them. 

He entered a nursing home following several weeks of 
hospitalization after a stroke in the fall of 1969. Visiting him 
on New Year's Day 1970, I asked, "Dad, if you could sharpen 
just one more disc, what kind would you want to sharpen?" 

"A John Deere," he replied with all the enthusiasm his 
weary body could muster. 

The next day my sister and family came out and, finding 
me writing a long overdue note of sympathy, urged me to fin- 
ish before we visited. But then the phone rang. It was the nurs- 
ing home telling us that when the nurse went to give Dad his 
medicine a few minutes earlier, she found him dead in his 
wheelchair. Russell Huntley, the disc sharpener was gone. A 
man and his vision had died together. As farm equipment 
became larger, the discs stay sharp longer, and disc sharpening 
is almost a thing of the past. 

Remaining for all who knew Dad is the memory of his 
spirit that would not allow him to give up in the face of any 
challenge, a spirit born of faith in God, devotion to his family, 
and confidence in his ability to make work when there was 


Blondelle Brokaw Lashbrook 

It happened quickly, but what havoc it wrought in those 
three short minutes on the unsuspecting community of 
Rushville, on March 30th, 1938. No sirens announced its com- 
ing. Shortly before it struck, a pall of darkness enveloped the 
city, accompanied by a heavy shower of rain and hail. 

A dentist, after treating a patient, was sitting relaxing in 
his office as was his habit about 2:00 p.m. and was casting his 
eyes on the weather vane atop the 115-foot city water tower. 


The arrow on a ball-bearing frame pointed to the east. Sud- 
denly it veered to the north and west and quickly made the 
round of all points of the compass as he still gazed with fasci- 
nated interest overlooking the black clouds forming in the 
northwest. All at once he saw the 4-foot weather vane disap- 
pear entirely. He was reminded of Major Bowes' radio lines: 
"Round and round she goes, where she will land nobody 
knows!" No one has, as yet, reported finding the city weather 

The tornado cut its swath through the south edge of the 
community at approximately 3:50 p.m., to judge from the elec- 
tric clock, which stopped. Winds up to 40 and 50 mph were 
whipping through the city. 

At that time I was living in the north part of town with 
my two daughters, ages four and six. That afternoon, they 
were huddled in a corner of the living room with a playmate 
and clinging to each other. I was hanging onto the doorknob to 
keep the front door from swinging open. It was the strongest 
wind that I was ever in. The house shook and I thought that at 
any minute the roof would go. Debris of all kind flew past the 
living room window, including a wash tub. Suddenly it was all 
over. I opened the door and the extreme quiet following the 
roar of the wind struck me. Voices could be heard so clearly in 
the air. 

The south section of the city suffered the worst damage. 
It was only a few minutes until the whole population realized it 
had been hit by its first tornado. Hundreds of citizens rushed 
to the storm-stricken areas to lend assistance to the few peo- 
ple who had been caught and injured. While many men, 
women, and children received minor cuts and bruises, only 
five ladies had to have immediate attention. 

Some brick homes were damaged, a whole street of 
houses were demolished, and an old broom factory collapsed. 
Some tenants escaped through the upper window. Scores of 
garages, barns, and out buildings were damaged or destroyed. 
Yet with all this destruction of property there was not one 

fatality. Neither was there a fire, in spite of the fact in every 
home reduced to ruins there was either a furnace or a stove full 
of burning fuel. 

A seven-year-old with a new raincoat insisted on walking 
home from school that afternoon in the rain. When the storm 
hit, the boy was in front of the broom factory. He tried to make 
the porch of an elderly lady's home and the wind carried the 
porch away and the house crumbled into ruins. He was tossed 
to the ground and rolled under a car which was parked in front 
of the hospital. Crawling out from there, he fought his way to a 
mail collection box and clung to the box until the storm sub- 
sided. He heard cries for help from the lady whose home had 
collapsed. He hurried to the hospital and summoned aid. With 
debris all around him, he escaped without a scratch. 

When a couple east of Rushville returned to their home 
from a trip through the east, they found the garage just west of 
their house wrapped around the corner of the home and debris 
scattered all over the farm. 

Sticking in a house were timbers that had been blown 
there from wrecked homes a block away. 

Over 138 homes were damaged, and losses were placed at 
about $275,000. 

In the cemetery stately tall evergreens were torn out by 
the roots, broken off a few feet from the ground, stripped and 
twisted and elegant old trees lay flat on the ground among a 
mass of broken tombstones which they had demolished as 
they fell to the ground. It would take years and years to replace 
the many beautiful pines and evergreens of which only a few 
were left standing. 

Twenty-four state police were placed on duty in 
Rushville following the tornado. Two state police first aid cars 
were brought in. Telephone linemen helped police overcome 
handicaps of broken telephone wires. Patrolmen were on their 
way to the city within 10 minutes after the storm. A Forest 
Howard who operated an amateur radio station in Rushville 
was instrumental in broadcasting the needs for immediate aid 


after the storm. 

This destructive tornado had taken a northeasterly 
course through the Ilhnois River Valley, flattening everything 
in its wake. The worst sufferer was South Pekin, although 
Rushville, Astoria, Morton, Tunnelwell, Havana, Deer Creek, 
and other points incurred severe losses. It cut a 70-mile swath; 
15 lives were lost and there was $1,000,000 in damage. 


Ruthe E. Seller 

"Get up, George, Oneida's on fire!" My father's voice 
roaring up the stairwell brought all of the family plunging 
downstairs. The house and the whole sky were lit by a red 
glow — a light so bright it had waked my father, who had 
thought it was the sun. However, it was only four-thirty that 
morning of November 15, 1915, so Dad knew it was fire and he 
immediately called the telephone operator to report it. 

In less than five minutes after his yell, Dad and my 
sixteen-year-old brother George were running with buckets 
down the road toward the skyward-shooting flames. Since the 
farm we lived on was less than a half mile east of the heart of 
town, we crowded against the west windows of the house to see 
what was going on and to watch for a nearer approach of the 
fire. But our view was blocked by the big brick schoolhouse at 
the east edge of the business district. As the flames burst 
upward silhouetting the building, my twelve-year-old brother 
Carl's voice could be heard shouting gleefully, "I hope it's the 
schoolhouse!" But alas for a small boy's hopes: the flames 
never reached that far! 

Before Dad and George were out of sight, we heard five 
short, sharp rings on the telephone — the company's line sig- 
nal for help. In our house, as in all other homes along the lines, 
Mother hurried to the phone to hear the operator saying that 

the first block of Oneida's eastside business district was ablaze 
and that help was needed to keep the fire from spreading. 

Those were old wooden stores — built when Oneida was 
only three years old — but all except one housed a thriving 
business. The six occupied stores consisted of Stephenson's 
Dry Goods Store, Anderson's Harness Shop, Sheafer's Drug 
Store, MoUie O'Dell's Millinery Shop, a dry-cleaning estab- 
lishment and a "candy store," which may have been a restau- 
rant, but we children never got farther in it than the candy 
counters in the front! They were mostly two-story buildings 
with porches along the front, nice places for small children to 
take refuge when they were caught uptown by a sudden sum- 
mer shower. 

And help came — men on foot from all over town and 
nearby farmers in wagons, all with buckets, and Oneida's 
small chemical fire engine swung into action. But still the fire 
roared on. As the flames leaped from building to building, 
threatening the whole town. Mayor Sam Metcalf telephoned 
the Galesburg Fire Department asking for help. Wataga, 
Altona, and Victoria fire engines were already on the job, but 
water and chemical supplies were almost exhausted. 

Since two of Galesburg's veteran fire-fighters were from 
Oneida, the large Galesburg chemical tank was rushed at awe- 
some speed to the Burlington's Railroad depot, loaded on a 
flat car and with a special engine sped toward Oneida. We 
could hear its frantic whistle and its bell clanging for the right 
of way as it came. It arrived about seven o'clock, and an hour 
later the fire was under control, though the ruins continued to 
smolder all day. Fortunately, there was very little breeze, a fac- 
tor which helped the firemen in their fight to save the town. 

At home we children, standing at the windows and in the 
yard, could see the farmers racing in with their wagons, and we 
all wanted to go to help, but Mother assured us that children 
could help most by staying home out of the way! This idea did 
not suit Carl at all, and as we gathered for breakfast, we found 
that he was absent. What young boy can resist going to a fire 


only four blocks away? 

But at 8:30 the first schoolbell rang and we headed for 
school where we chattered about the fire, which we could still 
see and smell from the schoolyard. Closer inspection was for- 
bidden by the teachers. As a first-grader, I got out at 11:30, sol 
had a half hour before regular dismissal and, of course, I 
rushed uptown to see. 

The streets and public park were blocked with counters, 
furniture and goods from the stores. There were great bolts of 
lovely, brilliantly-colored silks from the drygoods store all 
soaked with water and stained with the white of chemicals, 
and there, face-down in a muddy pool of water on the ground, 
was a doll — alone, dejected and sadly in need of care. I picked 
it up, cleaned it as best I could with my little handkerchief 
(and the ruffle on my petticoat!) and put it on a nearby chair, 
spreading its skirts out to dry. With a final pat and "Every- 
thing will be all right; someone will come for you!" I left Dolly 
and proceeded on my way among the piles of rescued objects. 
Ah! There were the counters from the candy store — intact! 
However, although I looked hopefully at them for some time, 
no one offered me any of the candy, so I went on with the 
crowds, "sadder but wiser" indeed! 

The whole area south of the railroad tracks was jammed 
with workers and strangers sightseeing, but there was no loot- 
ing and everyone was quiet and orderly except for two men 
who had apparently tried to make off with some stolen goods. 
However, they were promptly arrested and marched off to the 
city jail by Marshal Westfall and a couple of helpers—and I 
had been right there in time to see it all! A big event in the life 
of a six-year-old! 

By that time I was getting both tired and hungry so after 

finding out that my friend, the daughter of MoUie O'Dell— 
whose family lived above her shop — had escaped unharmed, I 
headed home for lunch. There I found my father and George 
just coming in for a brief rest and their first food of the day 
before returning to help reorganize things in the burned area. 

I hardly recognized them, for their faces and arms were 
burned and blackened, their overalls were covered with ashes 
and soot, and Dad's eyebrows and mustache were singed 
almost off. After cleaning up and tending to their burns, they 
joined us at the table; then we got our first account of the fire. 

We learned that two workers' hands had been cut by bro- 
ken glass, but no one else was injured. What caused the fire? 
No one knew for sure (and they never did find out!) but the 
men suspected that the fire had started in the dry-cleaning 
shop. Or could it have started in the apartment where a man 
lived alone over his empty store — a man who was known for 
his heavy smoking and drinking — and who just happened to 
be the first man at the scene? 

All of the merchants had sustained heavy losses — even 
those partially covered by insurance — and some, like Mollie 
O'Dell, had no insurance at all and would not be able to 

This was Oneida's last big conflagration, and it meant 
that all the business sections of the town had at one time or 
another been destroyed by fire. But it also meant that 
Oneida's last block of wooden stores was gone, and from then 
on all business houses would be made of brick and Oneida 
would have a fire siren, paid for by donations, and a better- 
equipped fire department. Thus, Oneida — like its big sister, 
Chicago, forty-four years earlier — would rise phoenix-like 
from its ashes! 



In one end of her kitchen, my grandmother had a large 
loom where she wove rag carpets and rugs. People came trom 
miles lor this service. This loom took up one end of her kitch- 
en, and I remember big rolls of carpet waiting to be picked up. 
The strips of carpet had to be sewed together for the room size 
they needed; then they tacked it down over newspapers or 
straw for padding. Wall to wall carpeting has come a long way 
since those davs in the ISOO's. 

Lula Fordxce Hughes 

line stove; and some sort of a "kitchen cabinet" that was 
lashed to our plucky Model T. Since it came from our land, 
food was no problem. An insulated container of sorts kept 
perishables from becoming tainted ... so long as we located a 
source of ice, regularly. Bags of ice cubes were not only un- 
available . . . they were as far in the future as regular trips to 
the moon are today. 

Marion Y. Baker 

If you were born around the turn of the century, the 
Great Depression hit you, too. It didn't miss any of us, did it? 
It really didn't HIT us. It just slipped up on us when we 
weren't expecting it. We look back on the GREAT DEPRES- 
SION as one of the happiest times of our life together. We 
learned to work and plan together. Those bill collectors 
taught us NOT to buy anything we didn't have the money to 
pay for. The market taught us the pleasure of hard work. We 
didn't make much money but we accomplished what we set 
out to do. We fed, clothed and sheltered our family through 
the crisis. We learned that the deepest joy comes from the 
simple things of life. We learned to evaluate the material 
things for their true worth: do they enrich your life, or are they 
a burden to be cared for? We learned to accept the problems of 
life as a challenge and have faith in our ability to solve them. 

Katherine Runkle Stuckex 

The particular trip that I am recalling today involved the 
historic National Air Races. We had been able to borrow 
camping gear from a variety of friends . . . probably in return 
for some farm produce, I suspect. This equipment included a 
tent large enough to shelter the four of us; a pressurized gaso- 

Another feature of the early 1900's was those mud roads. 
There was no rock or gravel on any of the roads, and in the 
spring the mud would roll up so heavy on the buggy and wagon 
wheels the men would have to get out and dig the mud from 
between the spokes of the wheels. No wonder our taxes go 
higher and higher when we enumerate the conveniences and 
the privileges we have from our tax dollars. 

Aurelia S. Marshall 

Autumn on the farm, in the early years of the twentieth 
century, required not only the most hard work, but also of- 
fered the most rewards. Of course, we had no radio or 
television — in fact, no electricity — but we had each other. On 
long winter evenings we had to make our own entertainment. 
We played dominoes, checkers, pitch, and other games. One 
of my fondest memories is our own music entertainment. We 
gathered around the piano while my mother played, and my 
father held a kerosene lamp so she could see the music; led by 
my father, we all sang. I'm glad to have lived during this era — 
to have seen the first automobile chugging down the dusty 
streets of Cuba and to have seen, on television, the first astro- 
naut step on the surface of the moon. 

Emma Cline Murphy 


My family lived on a farm near Fenton. There were nine 
children. Wecarried water from the windmill, heated it on the 
cookstove, and took our baths in a large washtub in the kitch- 
en. No bathroom, just a little house out back. It was horse and 
buggy days. Plowing was done with horses, and corn was 
picked and unloaded by hand. 

Jennie Florence 

snow covered driveway which led past the other burial plots, 
to the one which lay cold, raw, and open in the zero weather. 
At last, Felie had had his moment of importance— a time 
when everyone noticed him, and gave him their almost- 
undivided attention. 

Flovd M. Loivary 

A month before Christmas "Pa" and "Ma" started pre- 
paring for the beautiful approaching holiday. A barrel of fruit 
and a wooden pail full of candy were put in the parlor. The 
door was closed and not opened until the day before Christ- 
mas. The week before Christmas the fowl was killed and 
frozen, the bread, cakes, and pies were baked and put in the 
cool pantry. Christmas Eve the whole family came home, and 
we all attended Midnight Mass together. 

Katherine Lyons Beck 

They found him dead, face down in the snow under a 
lilac bush at the house of an old lady. He was frozen as stiff 
and as lifeless as the rocks he had carried to the steep front 
yard of his little house. He loved flowers, they said at the fu- 
neral. The people, who had tolerated him, took up a collection 
and bought him two baskets of the beautiful symbols. Felie 
would have liked to have seen the flowers, to have smelled 
them, and pressed a few in a book. He would have taken others 
and put them in a fruit jar or a pitcher, and set them on the 
warped, drop-leaf table in the corner of the one-room home 
where he ate, slept and dreamed the thoughts of his mind. . . . 
They buried Felie today. From the neat, white, painted small 
town funeral home, they carried him over the street, narrow 
and unpaved, where he had walked so often. Past the place 
where he had spent his last living moments, over the hill to the 

Dust Storms! Nov. 12, 19.33: We had our Praise Service 
in spite of a terrific dust storm, and the street lights were out. 
The dust was so thick we could scarcely see the corner. The 
wind blew our empty milk bottle off the porch into the rose 
bushes and broke. . . .We had to feel our way home from 
church. The dust was gritty between our teeth. James helped 
me the next day vacuuming the rugs and mopping the kitchen 
floor. I worked all morning and part of the afternoon cleaning 
up the dust. April 16, 1934: I scrubbed the bench on the back 
porch since the dust storm this week left it in terrible condi- 
tion. April 16, 1935: We had a dust storm today that 
penetrated through the doors and windows. 

Beulah Jean McMillan 

The wind rattles my window. A dog howls in the dis- 
tance. A fresh blanket of snow covers the ground and the wind 
continues to sing that winter is here. Winter is here unques- 
tionably. Strange events — what of yesterday and the mor- 
row? Best I make no predictions nor plans with arbitrarily 
chosen time frames. —My forest is here. From a 9th story 
perch I look north-west and see a sea of trees, red brick homes 
mostly hidden behind the grey black bare branches that ca- 
ress the sky in its many moods of blues, pinks, mauves, greys. 
The banks of the grand old man, the Mississippi, and open 
country beyond continue the carpet to the horizon. . . . 

Lapu Ooman 

List of (Authors 

Adams County 

Florence Ehrhardt 
Beulah Herman 
Bob Hulsen 
Lydia Kanauss 
Mildred Krueger 
Ann Marsh 
Lapu Ooman 
Glen Philpott 
LaVora S. Reid 
Ruth Reinebach 
Sarah J. Ruddell 
Dolores Seliner 
Edna Thompson 
Turman W. Waite 
Keith L. Wilkey 

Alexander County 

Guyla Wallis Moreland 

Boone County 

Florence Salisbury 

Brown County 

Nellie Roe 
Duward F. Tice 

Bureau County 

Clark Norris 

Cass County 

Alice Blessman 
Vivian Pate 
Edna Renner 
Helen Sherrill-Smith 


(who submitted memoirs to the Tales From Two Rivers 
Writing Contests VI and VII) 
Christian County Greene County 

Anna Becchelli Lora G. Allen 

Floy K. Chapman 
Clinton County Dorris Nash 

Catherine Goodwin Neita Schutz 

Viola A. Stout 
Cook County 

Paul C. Crum Grundy County 

John Zimmerman Mrs. Clarence Knop 

Lois M. Mellen 
Edgar County Celina Rawlish 

Guinevere Kopi:)ler Helen Ullrich 


Effingham County 

Nelle Shadwell 

Ford County 

Archie Stewart 

Fulton County 

Marion Baker 

Elizabeth Schumacher Bork 

Grace Breeding 

Bernice Cooper 

Louise E. Efnor 

Vera Henry 

Lula Hughes 

Hazel R. Livers 

Floyd M. Lowary 

E. C. Murphy, DVM 

Emma Murphy 

Vera Simpson 

Esmarelda T. Thomson 

Feme Trone 

Mrs. Garnet Workman 

Hancock County 

Lydia Jo Boston 
Clifford J. Boyd 
Florence Braun 
Ruth E. Bywater 
Mattie Emery 
Delbert Lutz 
Aurelia Marshall 
Elden McClintock 
Ruth McCutchan 
Kathryn Roan 
Grace B. Schafer 
Irene B. Tinch 
Bernadette Tranbarger 
James Whit son 
Marvin WoUbrink 

Henderson County 

Mrs. John W. Kane 
Clarence E. Neff 
Rev. Carroll Oschner 
Faye Christian Perry 


Louise M. Young 

Henry County 

Ruth S. Peterson Bengston 
Margaret M. DeDecker 
Annie Enborg Exalena Johnson 
Charlotte Magerkurth 
Kenneth Maxwell Norcross 
Marvis L. Rasmussen 
Robert C. Richards Sr. 
Donald B. Swanson 

Iroquois County 

Alice M. (Ireen 

Jackson County 

Claudia Kupel 

Aleatha McLaughlin Mifflin 

Jasper County 

Naidene Stroud Trexler 

Jersey County 

Marie Freesmeyer 
Elma M. Strunk 

Kankakee County 

Katherine Lyons Beck 

Knox County 

Lou Gamage 
Opal Ivie 

Dorothy Johnston 
Isal Kendall 
Eleanor Arnold Mills 
Glenrose Nash 

Helen S. Peters 

Marjory M. Reed 

Ruthe Seiler 

Opal Self 

Louise Parker Simms 

Lulu Stone 

George and Katherine Stuckey 

Lake County 

Rachel L. Creamer 
Fern Elliott 
Ruth Mogg 

LaSalle County 

Robert T. Burns 
Marguerite Thompson 
Wilbert Weitzel 

Lee County 

Charlene L. Ketcham 

Logan County 

Robert Sparks 

Macoupin County 

Martha Karlovic 

Madison County 

Dorothy B. Koelling 

Marion County 

Mildred Bross ' 

Marshall County 

Eleanor H. Bussell 
Gravce E. Kuhn 

Mason County 

Roy B. Poppleton 
Hollis Powers 
Edythe D. Worner 

Massac County 

Jack Dunning 
Beulah Pearl Green 
Evelyn Korte 
Dean Rodgers 

McDonough County 

Katherine Z. Adair 
John Newton Albright 
Paul E. Bates 
Harriet Bricker 
Effie L. Campbell 
Hila Chandler 
Lillian Nelson Combites 
Minnie Conner 
Mrs. Meryl Cook 
Harriet Cordell 
Gale Dixon 

D. H. Ewing (deceased) 
Pearl Foster 
Addra L Graham 
Burdette Graham 
Martha K. Graham 
Charles H. Harper 
Veta Harper 
Teckla Keithley 
Robert Little 
Floyd Lovejoy (deceased) 
Beulah McMillan 
Juanita Jordan Morley 
Lyle W. Robbins 


Ruth Rogers 
Mary Cecile Stevens 
Helen Alleyne Taylor 
Gertrude Wetzel 
Esther Fowler Willey 
Edward Young 

McLean County 

Wilson M. Baltz 
Vita Mueller Chapman 
Fern Hancock 
William Leonard Kelley 
Marjorie J. Scaife 

Menard County 

Margaret P. Faith 

Mercer County 

Hazel M. McMeekan 

Monroe County 

Albert E. Hartman 
Emil C. Hartman 

Montgomery County 

Vivian Sparks 

Morgan County 

Marv Brown 
Phyllis T. Fenton 

Peoria County 

Bette Thill Maloney Adams 
Joseph B. Adams Jr. 
Robert Babcox 
Vernon Barr 

Francis J. Bunce 
Mary Don 

Charles Harshbarger 
Erwin O. Keyster 
Glenna Lamb 
Mildred Norton 
June K. Pope 
Ed and Fran Riley 

Pike County 

Margaret L. Cockrum 
Ruth Roberts Lingle 
Merl Swartz 

Pope County 

Eva Baker Watson 

Randolph County 

E. M. Gross 
Theodore E. Guebert 
Anna Rittenhouse 

Rock Island County 

Gladys M. Bell 
Signe Evangeline Chell 
Eunice Stone DeShane 
Genevieve Fetes 
Junetta Findlay 
Rhoda Grimm 
Lloyd M. Hance 
Vera M. Hawks 
Arthur M. Jahn 
Clarissa M. Jahn 
Lina F Johnson 
Blondelle Lashbrook 
Marie F. Lerch 

Marguerite M. Millikan 

Etta Nicely 

Ruth E. Pearson 

Lilah Peterson 

Eleanor R. Rowe 

Orpha Swanson 

Loretta McManus Verschoore 

Marvel Walker 

Evelyn Witter 

Margaret Hammer Wolfinger 

Sangamon County 

Chris Dean 

Sr. Jacqueline Deters, OSF 
Sabra Sue Evans 
Ruby Davenport Kish 
M. LaChance 
Marv Midden 
Arnold F Miller 
Josephine K. Oblinger 
Helen E. Rilling 
Virginia Dee Schneider 
Mary B. Stultz 
Robert TefertiUar 
Vivian Workman 

Schuyler County 

Helen Baker 
Ruth Agans Kearby 
Laurence Royer 
Lillian Terry 
Guy Tyson 

Scott County 

Stella Hutchings 


Shelby County 

Miriam Herron 

White County 

Ruth Martin 

St. Clair County 

Don Burrows 
Eileen M. Greco 
Clara Rose McMillan 
Lillian D. Miller 
Vera Niemann 
Virginia Roy Rhodes 
Hazel Somers 
Lavern Sturman 
Grace R. Welch 

Stephenson County 

Stella M. Jensen 
Mrs. L. M. Van Raden 

Tazewell County 

Ruth B. Comerford 
Frances (Sue) Elliott 
Mary Stormer 
Lucius Valentine 

Whiteside County 

Jennie Florence 
Clarice Harris 
Kay Harris 

Will County 

Nina W. Kurkamp 

Williamson County 

Audrey Ashley-Runkle 

Places Outside of Illinois 

Irene Brei — West Liberty, Iowa 
Robert Brownlee — Seminole, Florida 
Elizabeth Harris — Muscatine, Iowa 
James B. Jackson — Seminole, Florida 
Billie Thompson — Phoenix. Arizona 
Roy Wehrman ~ Ventura, California 

Vermilion County 

Clarence E. Johnson 

Warren County 

Carmen Costello 
Hazel D Frank 
Joe Mangieri 
Anna Miller 
Dorothy E. Ray 
Zella L. Ross 

"To my surprise I found 'Harrington. J. ' listed for a precinct in 
the First Ward, on 22nd and Michigan Avenue, the river ward. 
The ward had been made famous by those notorious politicians 
'Hinky Dink' Kenna and 'Bathhouse John' Coughlin. This was 
the ward where votes were bought openly, where many of the 
registered voters 'lived' in vacant lots or the ward where loan 
sharking, prostitution, the numbers racket, and paid-for elected 
officials flourished openly. Did they really want a young lady 
from Beverly Hills suburb to go in there?" 

■Josephine K. Oblinger 
Sangamon County 

"I remember the first real medicine show I ever saw. which was 
m Kincaid. Illinois. It was the one I saw too. In 193.5. it was 
stilt hard times. ' and no one had anvwhere to go. " 

Anna Beccelli 
Christian Countv 

"The old shack was in bad shape, but I fixed up one room 
and moved in. I owned a horse, and bought another for 1,5 dol- 
lars, and Dad loaned me a three-year-old colt. I bought a 16-inch 
walking plow for 50 cents, a disc for $3 and a harrow for $3 at a 
sale; Dad also loaned me a corn planter. There was 24 acres, all 
bottom land, for corn. " 

Guy Tyson 
Schuyler County 

"The square at Table Grove had several grocery stores, in- 
cluding Haist's on the south side, and Frederick's in the 
southwest corner, and a Red and White on another part of the 
square. On the east side was Kirkbride's Clothing Store: on the 
northwest corner was Charly Cox's Shoe Store, and on the 
northeast corner was Keoler 's Drug Store and Ice Cream Parlor. 

Usually on Saturday night a movie was shown in the park, 
or sometimes a play put on by Minor Brock. 

Burdette Graham 
McDonough County 

"Time marches on, but the memories still live of the many 
changes that have been made in the past eighty years since I was 
a plain old barefoot country boy down on the farm. My earliest 
recollections were filling the wood box with wood for the kitchen 
stove, taking a small pail of water to my father working in the 
field, and helping my older sister bring in the cows from the pas- 
ture to be milked. " 

Truman W. Waite 
Adams County 

"At the inquest, the sexton swore his son had not touched 
the gate and was last seen standing only a short distance from it. 
There was no explanation as to why the gate fell at that time, un- 
less a sudden gust of wind had caused it to topple. " 

Edward R. Lewis. Jr. 
Fulton County 

"The jail m MUlstadt. St. Clair County, was buih in 190.5. 
The small red brick building, now relegated to the unglamorous 
role of a store room, opened its door to vagrants, drifters and gen- 
uine tramps in the late 20's and the 30's to provide shelter, 
warmth and a hard bed on winters' nights. " 

Wilson M. Baltz 
McClean County 

"I. I those days there was no radio or television, so most of 
our candidates had to visit the area in person whenever they 
could. Those were the days of 'orators. ' and political rallies were 
often all-day affairs with people coming from miles and miles to 
hear candidates. " 

Clarence E. Neff 
Henderson County