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Full text of "Tales from two rivers"




^ales from ^^&wo Rivers V 



^ales from '^wo Rivers V 



^ales from ^wo Rivers V 



edited by John E. Hallwas and Alfred J. Lindsey 



A Publication of 

Two Rivers Arts Council 

College of Fine Arts Development 

Western Illinois University 

Macomb, Illinois 



Copyright 1991 by Two Rivers Arts Council 

Library of Congress Card No. 81-51362 

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





The stories contained in Tales from Two Rivers /, //, ///, TV, and V were selected from manuscripts submitted by Illinois authors, over 
sixty years of age, to annual Tales from Two Rivers writing contests. This documentation of the social history of early Illinois as written 
by those who lived it is sponsored and published by the Two Rivers Arts Council, with partial funding by the Illinois Arts Council, a 
state agency. These books have been sold nationally beginning with Tales I in 1982, and are also available at local outlets and through 
the TRAC office. Phone 309/758-5442. 



Two Rivers Arts Council 

A consortium of western Illinois communities working with 
Western Illinois University to support the arts for the people of this region. 



Board of Directors 



David 
Havana, Illinois 



Gene Howell 
Beardstown, Illinois 



Phyllis Martin 
Bushnell, Illinois 



Randy Smith 
Macomb, Illinois 



Jane Boyd 
Rushville, Illinois 



Pam Johnson 
Macomb, Illinois 



Jim O'Toole 
Macomb, Illinois 



Bill Wallace 
Monmouth, Illinois 



Burdette Graham 
Macomb, Illinois 



Yvonne Knapp 
Raritan, Illinois 



Rossann Baker-Priestley 
Galesburg, Illinois 



Carol Yeoman 
Avon, Illinois 



Sharon Graham 
Biggsville, Illinois 



Pat Hobbs 
Macomb, Illinois 



Stephen Larimer 
Macomb, Illinois 

David Mace 
Rushville, Illinois 



Betty Redenius 
Carthage, Illinois 

Robert Reed 
Macomb, Illinois 



Sue Anstine 
Macomb, Illinois 



William Brattain 
Macomb, Illinois 



Advisory Board 



Dean James Butterworth 
Macomb, Illinois 



Forrest Suycott 
Macomb, Illinois 



Executive Director 



Helen Thomson 
Table Grove, Illinois 



Acknowledgements 



"RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 
OF THE 82ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE 
OF ILLINOIS, that we do hereby recognize, applaud, and 
congratulate the Two Rivers Arts Council for preserving the 
history of Illinois through Tales from Two Rivers . . ." 
House Resolution No. 688, Offered by Rep. Clarence Neff, 
Adopted March 3, 1982. 




"RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE 82ND 
GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, 
that we commend the Tales from Two Rivers 1 contributing 
authors, the Two Rivers Arts Council, the Illinois Humanities 
Council, the Illinois Arts Council, and Western Illinois Uni- 
versity College of Fine Arts Development for producing this 
book that will serve as a record of Illinois rural history; that 
we express to those individuals who were involved in the 
project our deep appreciation and thanks for their inspired and 
fruitful efforts, and that we wish for them continued success 
in their latest endeavor. Tales from Two Rivers II . . ." 
Senate Resolution No. 441, Offered by Senator Laura Kent, 
Adopted March 31, 1982. 



Illinois Community Education Association honored the Two 
Rivers Arts Council at a Statewide Project Showcase for its 
Tales from Two Rivers project in 1986. 



The Congress of Illinois Historical Societies and Museums 
presented the Two Rivers Arts Council a Superior 
Achievement Award for its publication. Tales from Two 
Rivers IV, in 1988. 




e 



ontents 



There rise authors now and then, who seem proof against the mutabihty of language, because 
they have rooted themselves in the unchanging principles of human nature. " 

Washington Irving 



"In every man's writings, the character of the writer must lie recorded." 

Thomas Carlyle 



I Community Life 



COMMUNITY LIFE John E. Hallwas 3 

THE BROOKLYN COMMUNITY James B. Jackson 5 

THE GREAT DEPRESSION IN BROWNING Helen Sherrill Smith 7 

THE RISE AND FALL OF POSSUM HOLLOW John Singleton 9 

THE TURKEY HILL LITERARY SOCIETY Lillian D. Miller 11 

BIGGSVILLE'S HOMECOMING PICNIC Louise Gibb Milligan 12 

THE MARCH KING COMES TO MONMOUTH Martha K. Graham 14 

THE CITY— AT ROODHOUSE Ruby H. Bridgman 15 

COASTING ON THE MARTIN STREET BRIDGE Louise Parker Simms 17 

THE ONCE IN A LIFETIME NIGHT Sidney Jeanne Seward 18 

MY SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN SPRINGFIELD Gloria L. Taylor 19 



U The Roaring Twenties 21 

THE ROARING TWENTIES John E. Hallwas 23 

THE KID FROM THE ROARING TWENTIES Armour F. Van Briesen 25 

MY RECOLLECTIONS OF THE ROARING TWENTIES Madge Bates Dodson 26 

IF YOU WERE A FLAPPER IN 1922 Audrey Ashley-Runkle 28 

THE FLORENCE DANCE HALL Margaret L. Cockrum 29 

THE TWENTIES IN MCDONOUGH COUNTY Lillian Nelson Combites 29 

WHEN WOMEN VOTED IN 1920 Ruth Rogers 30 

THE ROARING TWENTIES IN BROWNING Helen Sherrill Smith 31 

SHINE RAID AT A BARN DANCE F. Mary Currie 33 

A VISIT FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN Jean Courtney Huber 34 

A BABYSITTING INCIDENT IN BOOTLEGGING DAYS Irene Vander Vennet 36 

THE TIME OUR CHICKENS GOT STONED Sidney Jeanne Seward 37 

ROUTE 67 BECOMES A HARD ROAD Mary I. Brown 39 

AUGUSTA'S TURKEY TROT Ralph Eaton 40 

MY AIRPLANE RIDES IN THE 1920s Burdette Graham 43 

ROARING SOFTLY: THE TWENTIES IN LEBANON Grace R. Welch 43 



111 Books and Reading 



BOOKS AND READING John E. Hallwas 49 

BOOKS! THEYVE ENHANCED MY LIFE Alice Krauser 51 

TRAVELS IN THE REALMS OF GOLD Nelle E. Shadwell 52 

I NEVER MET A BOOK I DIDNT LIKE Ruth Gash Taylor 53 

FICTION, MY FIRST LOVE Wilmogene Stanfteld 55 

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF A BOOKWORM Clarice Stafford Harris 56 

THE JOY OF READING Audrey Bohannon 57 

PULP MAGAZINES Richard Thom 59 

THE COMICS IN THE 1920s Phyllis T. Fenton 60 

READING FOR PLEASURE AND INFORMATION Marie Freesmeyer 60 

MY FAIvTTLY'S STRUGGLE FOR EDUCATION Stella Howard Hutchings 62 



IV Unforgettable People 



UNFORGETTABLE PEOPLE Alfred J. Lindsev 67 

C. H. KING OF ROSEVILLE Martha K. Graham 69 

DONA DONUT, UNFORGETTABLE GIVER Dorris Taylor Nash 71 

EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE AN AUNT MARY Eva Baker Watson 73 

MEMORIES OF GRANDMOTHER THOMAS Eleanor H. Bussell 75 

MY MOST UNFORGETTABLE PERSON Ruth Rogers 77 

TO GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE I WENT Dorothy Van Meter 79 

THAT CHARACTER HAPPENS TO BE MY AUNT Effte L. Campbell 81 

JOE AND HIS AMERICAN DREAM Joseph B. Adams, Jr 83 

THE WOMAN IN THE GILDED CAGE Ruth Gash Taylor 84 

OUR COURAGEOUS LADY Betty L. Hardwick 86 

THE LITTLE DRUMMER MAN Dorothy Boll Koelling 87 



V WUTKings 



WILD THINGS John E. Hallwas 91 

THE TIMBER BELT Floy K. Chapman 93 

OUR WOODS— THE GOOD PROVIDER Garnet Workman 94 

MORE THAN TWO SCENTS WORTH Robert T. Burns 95 

ENCOUNTERS WITH SNAKES Glenna Lamb 97 

THE FOXES OF MY CHILDHOOD Maxine Hawkinson 99 

MY EXPERIENCES WITH BATS James B. Jackson 99 

FISH GRABBING Robert L. Brownlee 100 

OUR QUEST FOR THE RED SPIREA Lucille Ballinger 101 

CEDAR GLEN Dorris E. Wells 103 



VI Farm Life Years Ago 



FARM LIFE YEARS AGO Alfred J. Lindsey 107 

SILVER THREADS AMONG THE GOLD Mary J. Conlan 109 

CANNING Evelyn Witter 110 

TOYS MADE THE KID Helen E. Rilling 113 

A STRAWBERRY PATCH Florence Ehrhardt 115 

TECHNOLOGY COMES TO THE FARM Mildred M. Seger 116 

THE PRIVY AND THE GOOD OLD DAYS Margaret Kelley Reynolds 117 

BELGIAN FARM LIFE IN ILLINOIS Margaret M. DeDecker 118 

REAPING THE HARVEST Eleanor Green 119 

HOG HAULING Elizabeth Harris 121 

RAISING CHICKENS ON THE FARM Ralph Eaton 123 

SAVING THE CHICKENS Ivan E. Prall 125 

SHIPPING DAY AT NORRIS FARM Donald Norris 126 



VU My First ]oh 



MY FIRST JOB Alfred J. Lindsey 13 1 

UNDER A NURSE'S CAP Hazel Denum Frank 133 

I LOOK FOR THAT FIRST JOB Virginia Schneider 134 

THE HARD ROAD GANG James B. Jackson 137 
LEARNING TO WORK IN NAUVOO: A FRUITFUL EXPERIENCE Lydia Jo Boston 139 

MY FIRST PENNY Mary Stormer 141 

MY FIRST DOLLAR Ivan E. Prall 142 

MY FIRST JOB IN AMERICA Anna Becchelli 143 

WORKING AS A WAITRESS Phyllis T. Fenton 144 

TEACHING AT ROUND PRAIRIE SCHOOL Elma Strunk 145 



Vlll The One-Room School 149 



IX Letters of Long Ago 

LETTERS OF LONG AGO Alfred J. Lindsey 



151 



THE ONE-ROOM SCHOOL Alfred J. Lindsey 

CHRISTMAS AT THE COUNTRY SCHOOL Eva Hodgson Hapner 153 

A ONE-ROOM SCHOOL IN MACOUPIN COUNTY 

Katherine Nolo Thornton Cravens 153 
CERES SCHOOL: MEMORIES OF A RURAL CLASSROOM 

Ida Harper Simmons ^^ 

THE ONE-ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE Robert L. Tefertillar 158 

AS I REMEMBER IT Blondelle Lashbrook 160 

FALL FLORA AND "FUN"A Elizajane Bates Suttles 161 

A DAY TO REMEMBER Marie Freeesmeyer 163 

THOSE FOLKS AT JOHN DEAN SCHOOL Helen C. Harless 165 
FROM MY TEACHER'S PLANNING SCHEDULE, 1929-1930 

Anna Rittenhouse 

PERILS OF A COUNTRY SCHOOL TEACHER Louise Barclay Van Etten 168 

EXPERIENCES OF A RURAL TEACHER Mary K. DeWitt IVO 

THE OLD ONE-ROOM COUNTRY SCHOOL Fern Moate Hancock HI 



177 



ABE LINCOLN'S BODY COMES HOME Jean Geddes Lynn 179 



180 



A LEGACY FROM UNCLE JOHN Esmarelda T. Thomson 

LETTER OF A FORTY-NINER Owen Hannant 182 

A LETTER ON MAKING MAPLE SYRUP Stella Howard Hutchings 183 

DEAR GRANDMOTHER Hazel Keithley 185 

A LETTER TO A SISTER Helen Shepherd Shelton 186 

A LETTER TO JULIE Signa Lorimer 188 

A LETTER EDGED IN BLACK Louise E. Efnor 190 

ROMANTIC LETTERS Max L. Rowe 191 

A WORLD WAR II LOVE LETTER Katherine Nola Thornton Cravens 193 



X The Unforgettahle Past 



THE UNFORGETTABLE PAST John E. Hallwas 197 

HE STARTED ME FISHING Milton A. Powell 199 

WHEN SHERIFF COOK CONFRONTED AL CAPONE LaVern E. Cook 200 

HERE COMES THE SHOWBOAT Marie Freesmeyer 201 

FLEEING BEARDSTOWN WITHOUT BRAKES Helen Shepherd Shelton 203 

THE RUSHVILLE TORNADO William P. Bartlow 205 

STEAM ENGINES AND BRIDGES Robert L. Brownlee 207 
HOT LUNCH AT BREWSTER SCHOOL: THE OLD HEN 

Margaret Kelley Reynolds 208 

RURAL ELECTRIFICATION IN MORGAN COUNTY Mary I. Brown 210 

MOUTH-WATERING HOMEMADE BREADS Helen E. Rilling 211 

LOST TRAIL BARBAREE Ruby H. Bridgman 213 
MY QUEST TO KNOW ABOUT MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS 

Marjorie J. Scaife 213 

MY THOUGHTS ON MEMORL^L DAY Phyllis Wells Pincombe 215 

MY VISIT TO FORD'S THEATRE William E. Thomson 216 



List of Authors 



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1 Lommunity Life 



COMMUNITY LIFE 

Communities have changed dramatically in the twenti- 
eth century. Countless towns that were once thriving places 
have declined, and others have grown so much that older 
residents can hardly believe they are living in the same commu- 
nity where they grew up decades ago. 

And the changes that have come over Illinois towns are 
not simply a matter of economics. Early in the century most 
communities were isolated, except perhaps for the railroad that 
connected them to the larger world. Trips by car were an 
infrequent adventure on often difficult roads. And the national 
news seemed remote from everyday life. No wonder many 
small-town newspapers reported very little of it. 

People were focused on life in their own community. 
Local organizations thrived, community-wide activities were 
well attended, people neighbored intensively, and children 
grew up with a deep sense of belonging. Many an older person 
has returned to the town where he or she was raised, only to find 
that the sense of community that once pervaded the place has 
dissipated over the years. Smaller towns can still be wonderful 
places, but people live there in greater isolation than they did 
decades ago. 

In contrast, a strong sense of social interaction is con- 
veyed by the memoirs in this section of Tales from Two Rivers 
V. James B. Jackson's recollection of the village of Brooklyn in 
the 1930s is a case in point. He depicts a very close-knit 
community: "We were all bound together by the school, the 
stores, the Masonic Lodge, the church, and the Domestic Sci- 
ence Club. We were completely interdependent." Jackson 
himself was an outsider, but he apparently fit in quickly as he 
became acquainted with the local families. 

Lodges and societies once thrived in small towns, pro- 
viding much-appreciated occasions for social activities as well 
as outlets for common interests. Jackson recalls the Brooklyn 
Masonic Lodge, which he was expected to join, and did. At 



greater length, Lillian D. Miller describes the activities of the 
Turkey Hill Literary Society, which was simply "a group of farm 
folks gathered together to learn, share, teach, play, and laugh." 
It was obviously an extension of family-type interaction among 
the residents of a rural area who had little but themselves to 
draw upon for entertainment and edification. 

Community-wide activities were always exciting in towns 
where little happened for most of the year and entertainment 
was always scarce. So, it is not surprising that Louise Gibb 
Milligan has sharp memories of the Biggsville Homecoming 
Picnic. Likewise, when the "march king," John Philip Sousa, 
came to Monmouth, that was surely the event of the decade for 
local people. Martha K. Graham's mother told her, "Don't ever 
forget this day," but it was surely an unnecessary reminder. 

Most socializing was of an informal sort, not related to a 
local event, and for these memoir writers, who were children 
decades ago, the most memorable times were often centered 
around fun outdoors. Ruby H. Bridgman recalls "the city," a 
Roodhouse park that was "the hub of social life for the surround- 
ing area in the summertime," and Louise Parker Simms and 
Sidney Jeanne Seward recall coasting and ice skating, which 
were the most common winter activities in most small towns. 

There is a tendency to idealize the past, to remember 
only the good times, for they are apparently more important to 
our sense of identity . But community life is not always wonderful- 
— nor was it years ago. Living well in a particular place takes 
effort and engagement. Gloria L. Taylor reminds us of that as 
she recounts her initial loneliness in Springfield and her gradual 
development of new friends there — friends who later had an 
enormous impact on her life. 

Perhaps that is the deepest truth about ourselves — that 
despite our American devotion to individualism, self-realiza- 
tion is never an individual matter. We are shaped by our social 
interaction. Hence, nothing is more important than the quality 
of our community life. 

John E. Hallwas 



THE BROOKLYN COMMUNITY 

James B. Jackson 

When I was a student at Western Illinois State Teachers 
College in 1928, I knew, vaguely, that Brooklyn lay on down 
Crooked Creek a few miles to the south and east. But that was 
all I knew about it. After I had graduated, Claire Talley, a 
former debate team partner, told me he was moving from 
Brooklyn to Littleton High School as principal. He suggested 
that I apply for the position of principal in Brooklyn. Alvin 
Roberts had been a member of that same debate team and he 
urged me to go for it. He had preceded Tally in the job and we 
all thought the old team spirit might just land the job for me. It 
did. I got the job at $900 per year. That was in 1936. My wife 
and I stayed there four years and both our children were born 
there. I still keep in touch with several elderly men and women 
who were my pupils in that wonderful little two-year high 
school where I added four years of higher education to my hard- 
earned B.Ed. 

Brooklyn was a close-knit community made up of the 
tiny unincorporated village and the surrounding area for which 
it was a center. We were all bound together by the school, the 
stores, the Masonic Lodge, the church and the Domestic Science 
Club. We were completely interdependent. No one bought 
anything away from Brooklyn if it was to be had at Fred Irwin's 
or Glanden Lance's general store. The little filling station next 
to Lance's pumped 15c gas for every one in town and served 
coffee, sandwiches and pie for those who had the cash for such 
fare. If you didn't have ready cash, you could always get credit. 
Estie Daniels cut everyone's hair in his tiny 10' x 12' shop. Once 
I had a teacher send Estie's ten-year old boy over to have four 
months' growth of hair removed, and before nightfall the story 
was all over town. Estie and I had a good laugh over it and 
several other kids' parents sent them for a trim before the 
"Perfessor" nabbed them. 



Believers and non-believers alike supported the last 
remaining church and Sunday school. The preaching was poor 
but earnest. The best men's Sunday school teacher I ever met 
was one of the two town drunks, a well-educated and charming 
man. Hoelscher's big building next to Estie's barber shop was 
a repair garage in the pre-hard road days. The "hard road" 
changed everything in Brooklyn. It was built in about 1930: 
Hwy. 101, running from Augusta through Brooklyn and Littleton 
to connect with Highway 67 some eight miles north of Rushville. 
No one ever referred to it as Highway 101. The hard road 
became the main street from west to east, a full 3/4 of a mile. 
Then it crossed Crooked Creek Bridge just below the dam and 
snaked on across the bottoms and the hills and the prairie farms 
to its undramatic end. The right of way took several feet off most 
of the lawns and adjacent property. The old hitching racks in 
front of the business places were gone forever. There was barely 
room on the shoulder to stop a car in front of the stores. The 
porches with their sheet iron roofs were within spitting distance 
of the pavement. There was a loafer's bench at Lance's. Irwin's 
was too close to the road to permit one. But there were chairs 
inside around the stove so we always had a place to visit with 
our neighbors. 

There was one long street that ran south from the center 
of town. About half the houses in town were on this street and 
half along the hard road, perhaps thirty in all. The only other 
streets were very short. One led back to the old mill on the north 
side and the other one cut one block south and one block east to 
join the long south street. No street had a name except on the 
plat that had been made in about 1830-1835. 

The Ladies Aide Hall sat next door to the church and was 
the center for all community affairs. The junior-senior banquet 
was prepared and served by the ladies in the hall. The pupils' 
mothers donated the food. The principal's wife went to the 
Extension Classes in Rushville once a month and brought back 
materials for the Household Science Club. She also taught the 



classes: slip covering, sewing, canning, nutrition, etc. The 
attendance was good. Twenty to thirty women of all ages came 
for the companionship as well as the instruction. When money 
was needed for the church, we all donated food. The ladies 
prepared a feast and we all went and bought back our own 
chicken or ham or vegetables or dessert. There was a bit of 
friendly grumbling, perhaps, but never an outright refusal. 

The Masonic Hall was small — not only the hall itself, up 
above Fred Irwin's store, buu in total membership. Even so, 
practically all of the leaders of the larger community were 
members in good standing. Although never stated aloud, it was 
generally understood that the high school principal, the 
"Perfessor," automatically would petition for membership and 
that he would be automatically accepted. And so I became a 
member of A. F. A.M. The Masons did not throw their weight 
around, but anything the masons backed generally succeeded. 
Once a year we had Ladies' Day and they, the ladies, honored 
us with a lovely dinner at their hall which they prepared and 
served. 

The Post Office sat between the filling station and 
Lance's store. The mail came in by car or, in times of bad roads, 
by horse and buggy, from Plymouth via Birmingham. All mail 
for Brooklyn residents had to be picked up at the Post Office, 
either at the counter or a private box. The building was almost 
the same size and shape as Estie Daniels' barber shop. The Post 
Mistress made the living for three beautiful daughters and a 
fine little boy. Her husband worked when he was able; but he, 
like the Sunday School teacher, was a heavy drinker and his 
income was far from steady. These two good men served as 
excellent object lessons and they succeeded in making a com- 
plete "teetotaler" of me. 

When I first saw it, I wondered why there was a lattice- 
work gazebo in the corner of the school yard. I soon found out 
that it was a bandstand. Long out of use, it stood as a silent 
reminder of the pre-hard road days when Brooklyn had its own 



fine little band of musicians that held Saturday evening con- 
certs all summer long. It was still in pretty fair condition, and 
we had not yet heard of the word "graffiti." 

The town's founding fathers believed that the Lamoine 
River would be navigable and that Brooklyn would grow to be 
a metropolis. The dream never became a reality, but the Village 
of Brooklyn did and the community developed into one of 
strongest in the Two Rivers area. This was due in large part to 
the quality of the early settlers and their descendents who have 
stayed on to become the third and fourth generation leaders. 
The families became related through inter-marriage, and there 
were few, if any, family secrets. It was an open society and it 
was easy to overlook the faults and shortcomings of such close 
friends and relatives. I knew of only one petty crime, the theft 
of a bucket of oats from "God Boy" Walker's bin by a poor man 
who needed it for his chickens. He was caught in the act and 
thenceforth was known as "Oats." His wife later ran off with a 
hard road man, leaving Oats the burden of raising a pair of fine 
boys, ages seven and three. He did his duty without a whimper 
and kept the respect of his neighbors. It was a great place for 
nicknames — "God Boy" was Walker's favorite oath. 

Chalk Curtis must have had a name, too. Chalk — now 
there was the real town character. He had a wife in Macomb 
who refused to live in his shack at the dam. He visited her often 
and regularly. He shared her meager relief supplies. I was her 
case worker in 1934-35. But Chalk's home was the creek bank, 
the old mill, and the loafer's bench in front of Lance's store. He 
was a fair-to-middling blacksmith and had a forge and some 
tools at the mill. In an emergency he would fix, or try to fix, a 
broken part, sharpen a plow share or a mower blade. When I 
drove into town with our old piano in a borrowed trailer, I 
stopped at the store to get help unloading it. Chalk was sitting 
there and recognized me at once. His greeting was loud and 
hearty. I responded in kind. After the banter had run long 
enough, I said: "Chalk, ifyou won't tell any lies about me, I'll not 



tell the truth about you." The men on the bench roared and they 
all came trooping to put the big old upright in the house we'd 
rented a block up the street. When our little boy was just a 
yearling, I'd take him to the store with me, and Chalk and the 
other men would take care of him while I did the trading. The 
baby chewed contentedly on Chalk's old pocket knife and the 
men seemed to enjoy the baby as much as he did them. 

We had one maiden lady who was a retired teacher. She 
kept an eagle eye on the "Perfessor" and the three women 
teachers and seemed to be frustrated when she was not able to 
find much to complain about. She had a brilliant mind and a 
good education, but she was eccentric. Six days a week, rain or 
shine, she walked the two blocks to the store and bought a pint 
can of kerosene for her lamps which she kept burning all night. 
Only the business places and a few wealthy residents had 
private electric generators. Most of us were content to clean 
chimneys and trim the wicks on our oil lamps. They do make a 
nice soft light! 

The other maiden lady was the mother of one of our 
outstanding citizens. She had reared him in a day when single 
mothers were all too often made to wear their own invisible 
scarlet letter. Not so in this case. She worked hard and raised 
her child without help. And she did a good job of it. He and his 
family were a credit to a self-sacrificing woman. She went to 
church regularly and worked for any one needing help with 
house work or babies or sick folk. Her son and her grandchil- 
dren honored her just as the rest of us did. But she was a shy 
and self-effacing person. 

Today, Brooklyn is almost a ghost town. There are no 
stores. The Post Office is closed and mail is delivered on Rural 
Route #3 from Plymouth. The high school is long since gone. 
The bus takes the kids, my former pupils' grandchildren, to 
Rushville. Members of the old families, the Walkers, Reeses, 
Hoelschers, VanDivers, Blackburns, Morgans, Lances, Lewises 
and many others, still live in their old homes and work the old 



farmstead. And I am quite sure there is still a strong bond of 
community that lives on as the sparse traffic moves swiftly past 
the dilapidated buildings and the drivers have no reason to slow 
down. Brooklyn-on-the-Lamoine lasted about a hundred and 
fifty years. The community of Brooklyn still lives. 



THE GREAT DEPRESSION IN BROWNING 

Helen Sherrill Smith 

National disasters took longer to be reflected in our 
small-town than in the great population centers, but eventually 
the Depression reached us in Browning. Since commercial 
fishing and hunting provided the daily income for many of our 
people, we began to feel the depth of the problem when orders 
from city markets began to lessen, giving fishermen lower 
prices for the catch. The market owner's inability to sell could 
mean no pay at all. This shortage meant less business for the 
stores and other related businesses, so the pinch began to be felt 
by all. 

Before long our handsome little bank went into 
receivership, loans foreclosed, and only the thriftiest of mer- 
chants survived. Teachers took pay cuts; the railroad workers 
were laid off; soon the Works Progress Administration became 
the biggest employer. Despite all the jokes about the laziness 
and time wasting of the W.P.A. workers, there were people who 
worked hard for their pay. And while there were make-do 
projects, worthwhile work was also done. City streets were 
repaved, public parks established, small rivers and creeks 
cleared and deepened, water pumping stations and sewage 
systems repaired and rebuilt. 

My father went to work every day, keeping the fish 
market open, although on some days all his work consisted of 



dipping off the dead fish from the live boxes. Although he went 
to work regularly, he was paid only when there was business to 
warrant it. My older brother Donald fished when there was a 
market, drove for the local physician. Dr. Childs, repaired guns 
and motors. My eighteen-year-old brother Dale worked on the 
W.P.A.'s Barberry gang — hard grueling work through hills and 
hollows grubbing out the bushes which carried over spores of a 
rust disease which could destroy wheat fields. I did housekeep- 
ing and child care; my mother and younger sister operated the 
local telephone switchboard. 

None of this brought in very much pay, but all together, 
we were in better condition than many of our friends and 
neighbors. My brother Lewis, who had married and started his 
family while working for the railroad, lost his job there and 
hunted, fished, and did day labor for anyone who needed a 
strong willing worker, helping local farmers during their busy 
season. He finally secured work on the W.P.A., which qualified 
his family for government surplus foods, which by then were 
being distributed in our county. 

While wages were low (even in good times, my father 
was paid $3.00 for a twelve to fourteen-hour day) food prices 
were also low. A trip to the nearest Kroger or A & P store would 
fill the back seat of the car for five or six dollars. Coffee was 3 
lbs. for 49(Z, bacon 14c per pound, sugar 5 lbs. for 29?, bread 9c 
per loaf. My pay for cooking, cleaning, laundry and child care 
ranged from $2.00 to $2.50 per week. But I could buy lovely 
shoes for $1.49, hose for 19c, cotton dresses for 98c, slips for 
49c — that is, when there was money left over for such buying. 

When I secured work for the W.P.A. I worked on the 
garden and canning crew, preparing food to be used in the school 
lunch program sponsored by the government. This group 
worked hard, and when I headed the lunch program, I worked 
for some time with one helper, a middle-aged man who had 
never worked in a kitchen, and who claimed to have just one 
gear, "slow and steady." Together we served lunch to 



seventy-seven people five days a week, everything prepared 
from scratch including the bread of the day. Also, all the 
cleaning was done by the two of us. I was paid for eight hours 
but often worked ten or twelve, just to keep the project going. 
Strange as it may sound to today's workers, I was lucky to have 
the job. Shorter hours and better pay than housekeeping! But 
I didn't find the jokes about lazy W.P.A. workers funny at all! 

Somehow, those of us who lived then have many good 
memories of those times. Everyone was suffering to some 
degree; no one in town was really affluent. There was a spirit 
of togetherness, and we all shared whenever we could with 
those who had less. A good friend, whose family's income was 
whatever the father could make from fishing and the oldest 
son's pay sent home from the Citizen's Conservation Corps (at 
$30.00 a month, room and board, clothing, healthful outdoor 
work, it was the salvation of many young men, teaching them 
work habits that stood them well in later life), had a hard time 
managing. Yet whatever food was left from their supper was 
earned across the alley to a family of three who had even less 
income. My father handed out fifty cent pieces in early morning 
to men at our back door who needed to put breakfast on the table 
for their children. Not every day — he didn't always have it — 
but when we could, we shared. 

Three meals a day were always put on the table — not 
always what we would have liked, but always food there. In 
living in Browning, we always raised a lot of vegetables, and 
canned the surplus, as well as all the fruit available. We had 
peach and pear and cherry trees; plums from neighbors yard's 
were free for the picking, apples the same. We had gooseberry 
and currant bushes and rhubarb plants; blackberries were 
plentiful in the hills, as were walnuts, hickory nuts, pecans and 
hazelnuts. Fresh fish were always available; sometimes tliere 
was turtle and frog legs. Rabbits, squirrel, quail, pheasant and 
wild duck graced our table in season — and sometimes out of 
season. Mother always had a few laying hens in the chicken 



yard and some young fryers in early summer. 

Rent for service on the telephone exchange was often 
subject to the barter system, so in winter our mother often 
received good country sausage, a side of bacon, or ribs and 
backbone from freshly butchered hogs. Sometimes she was 
offered a hog's head, which kept Mother and Grandmother 
Lewis busy for days, cooking, chopping and grinding its various 
parts, giving us mince meat for holiday pies, also souse, scrapple, 
and head cheese for the table. 

Much of the meat we had was served with vegetables 
and sauces and gravies so as to serve more with less. And any 
leftovers were shared with neighbors and relatives. Our satis- 
faction was enriched by thinking of others' needs being filled. 

Since there was little cash money for recreation, what 
we did have was more valued. The radio was as important to us 
then as the television is to today's generation. It even had some 
added values, in that one could listen while working, not of 
necessity being glued to the box. We had news, sports, soap 
operas; Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Amos and Andy, One Man's 
Family — with the added bonus of letting our imaginations 
picture them as we wanted them to look. And of course, there 
was always music. 

The young people played cards twice a week or so, 
contributing plates of fudge and bowls of popcorn. We went to 
square dances, we ice skated, and we sometimes chipped in 5c 
each for gas and six or more of us piled into a Model A Ford and 
went to Astoria where a mid-week double feature cost 15c, pop 
and popcorn 5c each, hot dogs 10c, hamburgers 15c. So 50c 
would give you a big evening of fun. 

In the summer, Happy Spillers would haul his big truck 
full of people to the Bader reservoir for a whole evening of water 
fun and play. And during State Fair week he carried a load of 
us to Springfield with blankets and bales of straw for seats, at 
$1.00 for adults, 50c for kids. We packed our lunches, ate in the 
WLS country music tent, looked at all the free exhibits, and rode 



home tired but happy. 

When reading this, it doesn't sound like we really suf- 
fered in the Depression. We worked hard, we lived on much less 
than we had been accustomed to, but we never were faced with 
the hopelessness which city people had to endure. To have 
hungry children and nothing but city sidewalks and streets to 
see, no way to get even a piece of fruit or a piece of cornbread 
except by handouts, must have brought total despair. In our 
small town there was such a sense of togetherness, of sharing, 
of making the best of what we had, that most of our memories 
were not bad ones. We survived with strength reinforced by 
having shared the essential goodness of the human spirit. We 
believed that things would change for the better, if we just 
endured. The real damage was transitory and the positive 
aspects helped us look forward to a better future. What reads 
in the history books as a great disaster was for us, a lesson in 
survival, in sharing, in making do with what we had, in 
appreciating friends and enjoying small pleasures. The values 
we learned then have made our later lives in Browning more 
meaningful. 



THE RISE AND FALL OF POSSUM HOLLOW 

John Singleton 

The writer of this story about a small blip on the screen 
of local history spent his childhood years in a community that 
no longer exists — Possum Hollow. In the exact center of Swan 
Township, Warren County, lies the now quiet valley that is 
bisected by a stream named Swan Creek. In the early to mid- 
1800s a vein of coal of some 24 to 30 inches in thickness was 
discovered underlying the hills which bordered the valley. The 
availability of, and easy access to, this resource attracted 



miners and their families to settle and establish their homes in 
the immediate area. The demand for coal increased and the 
little settlement grew, prospered, and came to be known as 
Possum Hollow. Several dozen houses and miner's cabins 
surrounded the country schoolhouse, officially named the Pos- 
sum Hollow School. At the peak of its prosperity, the community's 
population reached about three hundred souls — or so we are 
told by members of the Warren County Historical Society. In a 
stretch of about one mile, numerous small slope mines, some- 
times termed "dog-holes," penetrated under the hills on both 
sides of the valley. To this day there is still some evidence of the 
old mines in the slack piles" — tailings of clay, slate and some 
fine coal left from the mining. Nature is gradually healing these 
scars. 

As all things must end, the beginning of the end of 
Possum Hollow came in 1870, when the Chicago, Burlington 
and Quincy built a rail line from Bushnell to Monmouth. 
Unfortunately, it was laid one and one half miles south of 
Possum Hollow, through the village of Youngstown. Youngs- 
town flourished, as did the neighboring village of Swan Creek, 
located two miles to the west; Possum Hollow started a slow 
decline. Population of the community continued to shrink and, 
just before the end of the century, Possum Hollow School was 
closed. Students still living in the district then went to the new 
consolidated schoolhouse which was built in Youngstown. 

In 1915, when I was two years old, my father purchased 
the small farm that was in the center of Possum Hollow. The old 
schoolhouse had stood on the southeast comer of the property, 
and I well recall seeing the outline of the old foundation. In my 
earliest recollection, there were a total of four houses in the 
valley, plus three others located on the hilltops overlooking the 
valley. It was there that I spent my childhood years, along wdth 
two sisters, one brother and my parents until our mother died 
when I was twelve years old. All of us children attended the 
Youngstown school from first grade through tenth. A two-year 



high school and a compact gymnasium were on the second floor 
of the building. 

A happy childhood it was, what with fishing in Swan 
Creek for chubs, sunfish, and once in a while a catfish, in the 
summertime. In the Fall, squirrels were plentiful in the 
timberlands on each side of the valley. In Winter there were 
rabbits to hunt with a trusty .22 and a trap-line to run before 
and after school. In between kid chores, we could sled on the 
hills and skate on the ice in the creek. 

As Possum Hollow declined, so Youngstown blossomed. 
In the middle 1920s, along with the school, it boasted three 
general stores, a church, two barber shops, a post office, a 
library, a blacksmith shop and an auto sales and repair busi- 
ness. In addition, there was the rail-related business of the 
depot, freight house, elevator, stockyards, and coal shed. 

Once again, transportation was cause for change here as 
it has been in many other instances. In 1925, the "hard road" — 
now U.S. 67 — was built three miles to the west of Youngstown. 
The new road and the growing development and use of automo- 
biles started Youngstown on the pathway "off into the sunset." 
Now it has no railroad, no church, no school and no business of 
any kind. Just a few houses by a crossroad, quietly awaiting the 
lot that is befalling so many small towns all over the country. 

For the last thirty-plus years we have owned the small 
acreage that is the heart of Possum Hollow and which includes 
the site of the old schoolhouse. Sometimes we park our travel 
trailer there and enjoy the peace which fills the valley. By day 
the quiet is interrupted only by bird songs and the ripple of the 
creek. At night we can listen to the barred owls; sometimes a 
whippoorwill or the coyotes give a concert. Though they are 
mostly nocturnal, deer can be seen once in a while. Beavers now 
inhabit the creek and wood ducks use some of the nestboxes we 
have installed. Possum Hollow rests in peace. 



THE TURKEY HILL LITERARY SOCIETY 

Lillian D. Miller 

When someone mentions a literary society, it is natural 
to form a mental picture of a group of students or intellectuals 
or perhaps genteel ladies gathered together for the purpose of 
furthering their scholastic culture. 

Not so, the literary society of my childhood days. While 
the members were gathered for the purpose of increasing their 
knowledge, they were not exactly scholars. Rather, it was 
comprised of farmers, their wives and children — from babes in 
arms to teenagers. Some were older couples, some "just mar- 
rieds," plus many keen minded "old timers." And, believe it or 
not, all were active members. 

Many and rich, happy and nostalgic are the memories 
we have carried through the years of the Turkey Hill Literary 
Society, for that was our official name. We all lived in a rural 
community called Turkey Hill, so named by the Indians who 
first settled here, because of the huge flocks of wild turkeys that 
made their way to this ridge at sundown to roost in the great 
oaks growing there in profusion. 

The society's bi-monthly meetings were held in the 
Turkey Hill Grange Hall, which was centrally located and very 
well suited to meet our need. The lower floor housed the Turkey 
Hill Grange Hall School. The upper floor served as the meeting 
place for the grange and for other community meetings. There 
was a large stage at one end of the hall which lent itself 
beautifully to the plays, skits, minstrels, and other forms of 
entertainment that were part of our "programming." 

It was interesting and educational to watch and listen to 
those taking part in the program and a great thrill from time to 
time to be a participant. Our meetings were held at night after 
the farm chores were completed for the day. We children felt 
quite "grown up" to be allowed from home after dark. The 
horses looked like ghosts in the moonlight as we climbed into 



the buggy, but if the weather was warm, we would walk the 
three-mile round trip. Later, of course, the Model T replaced the 
horse and buggy. 

Soon after arriving, the chairman's gavel would fall and 
we were "called to order." Group singing usually opened the 
meeting, followed by solos, recitations, skits, a guest speaker or 
entertainer, and usually a debate. Sometimes our teacher 
would show us off by letting her pupils furnish a number. Even 
the pre-schoolers took part. One such number by a little lad is 
well remembered. He was dressed in his Sunday Best complete 
with a huge red bow-tie. His little recitation ran something like 
this: "How can I cut bread without a knife; How can I get 
married without a wife?" He stood there straight and proud, not 
missing a word. When finished, he gave the audience a very 
surprised and frightened look and ran weeping and screaming 
from the stage. 

Another time one of our upper grade girls, cute and 
small, recited a very lengthy poem without error. When we 
returned that night Mother said, "If that little girl can memo- 
rize such a long poem, there is no reason I can't." We soon found 
out she could and she did. I remember her standing on the stage 
reciting such old-time poems as "Gone With a Handsome Man," 
"Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight," "Whistlingin Heaven, ""Betty 
and The Bear," and many others. One day I came in from play 
to find her in the kitchen peeling potatoes. She seemed to be 
talking to herself and the table where she was sitting held a row 
of potato peelings neatly lined up. Of course, I asked her "Why?" 
for I was a very "Why, What, and When" kind of child. I found 
this was her method of making sure she did not skip a stanza of 
the lengthy poem she was memorizing, for each peel repre- 
sented a verse. 

At almost every meeting there was a guest speaker to 
enlighten the farmers on new and better agricultural methods. 
And, to be sure, the inevitable debate could not be overlooked. 
A timely and instructive topic was always chosen. Usually 



there were four debaters but if the topic was heavy, there could 
be six. The Turkey Hill Literary Society had some members 
with decided opinions. Some were "Hot Heads," and others 
were "Die Hards," which made our debates most exciting. 
Believe me, neither young or old slept during a good debate. We 
might have nodded a bit, but sleep? — NEVER! One of the men 
debating an economic issue remarked that a woman often threw 
out more food with a spoon faster than a man could shovel it in. 
Consequently, the debate went far beyond the original partici- 
pants, for it drew the wrath of the women, who had their say and 
put the men in their place. Another time one of the men 
declared that husbands were killed more often by their wives 
using their skillets and serving fried foods than by succumbing 
to illness — and another battle of the sexes followed! The women 
also had debating teams, but they were less exciting than those 
put on by the red-faced, fist making, and loud-yelling men. 

From time to time, it was necessary to raise some 
expense money, which was accomplished by combining neces- 
sity and entertainment. A box social would be scheduled, and 
for weeks prior there would be much planning and preparation 
by the women — first the food and then the most important of all, 
decorating the box. 

One year the social was scheduled for a few weeks before 
Christmas. Mother covered her box in white, bound it with red 
ribbon, and placed one pretty red Poinsettia across the top. She 
showed it to Dad and told him to take a good look so he would 
be sure to buy her box. Came the big night and Dad had 
forgotten everything he had seen except that Mother's box had 
boasted a red flower. It so happened that one of the young girls 
was also holiday minded and had placed several Poinsettias 
across her green box. Her beau, like Dad, remembered only that 
her box had a Poinsettia decoration. When Mother's box was 
put up for sale. Dad and the young man started wildly bidding 
against each other. Other young men who had conspired to run 
up the girl's box joined in the bidding, which added to the 



excitement. It was Dad who finally bought the box, and while 
he did accidentally get the right one, it was at a price that made 
the treasurer smile. 

The Turkey Hill Literary Society was a forerunner of the 
Farm Bureau, Four-H, and other farm organizations. It was 
made up of a group of farm folks gathered together to learn, 
share, teach, play, and laugh together. There were no status 
barriers, no "each one doing his own thing," no generation gaps, 
and no lack of communication. The memories of these meetings 
as they touched each individual are still cherished by the very 
few and very old "Literarians" who are still around. 



BIGGSVILLE'S HOMECOMING PICNIC 

Louise Gibb Milligan 

As I recall now, my whole summer seemed to revolve 
around the Biggsville Homecoming Picnic. It was held the last 
Thursday and Friday in August for years. Finally, to satisfy the 
carnival company, one more day was added. 

As a small child I waited impatiently for the big week, for 
the picnic really started early for me. I watched daily for the 
first signs of the carnival's arrival, especially the Merry-Go- 
Round. When the men had it erected, they had a trial run, and 
everyone around had a free ride. The first ride of the first day 
was also free, and I never aimed to miss a free ride. It was 
always assembled in the southeast part of the park. When I was 
about twelve, my father and three neighbors bought an old 
Merry-Go-Round. They ran it for one summer to get back what 
they had invested and then turned it over to the town. Elmer 
Robbins kept it running, and Holmer Beebe was ticket taker. I 
can still hear the calliope playing "When You Wore a Tulip." 
The price of the tickets was five cents. The year my father was 



co-owner we all got a free ticket to ride. How smug we felt 
getting to ride free. 

The first stand to arrive was the Schultz's fi-om Morning 
Sun, Iowa. They had the same spot, northwest of the Merry-Go- 
Round, close to a big tree. They had a small son with them. 
Their drawing card was white taffy, which they pulled over a big 
hook, fastened to the tree. Mr. Schultz was tall and lean. Katie 
was real short with an Oriental look. She wore enormous 
amounts of make-up. They came many years before their 
scandal. Katie had an affair with a young farm hand. One night 
he climbed a ladder to a second floor bedroom and shot Mr. 
Shultz. Both Katie and her boyfriend were sent to prison. The 
Burlington Hawkeye Gazette published the whole trial; at that 
time it made scandalous reading and I never missed a word. 

Just north of the Schultz's were the carnival throw 
games. The roadway behind the high school was used for 
parking for the carnival company. The north side was taken by 
carnival shows. There was even a Girlie Show, which did not 
last long after the women discovered why their men were all 
heading for the northwest corner of the park. Some of the 
carnival games gave Kewpee Dolls for prizes. These dolls are 
now collectors items. The south side was left for the churches' 
eating stands. There was also the peanut-popcorn wagon, 
anywhere it would fit. 

One of the big events was getting your clothes ready for 
the big occasion. We needed a minimum of four outfits. We 
wouldn't think of wearing the same outfit twice. The year I 
started to high school I went to town and got a new dress and a 
gray pleated skirt and a pink sweater. What joy! My first store 
bought clothes! 

Finally, came the big day and its parade. The parade 
started at the depot when the ten o'clock train arrived from 
Burlington, carrying the Burlington Municipal Band, all splen- 
did in their red uniforms. All the entries were in position with 
Uncle Billy Stevenson, in his buggy pulled by his white horse 



"Fanny," leading the parade. The route was from the depot to 
the picnic grounds. Waiting cars, filled with basket lunches to 
be eaten later on the school grounds, lined all the streets. 

During the afternoon folks visited and then headed for 
the west side which had been left for the band stand with its red, 
white, and blue bunting. The seats were row after row of cement 
blocks and planks, loaned by the lumberyard. The band played 
twice in the afternoons. Sometimes there were speakers, 
mostly politicians, including William Cullen Bryan and Gov. 
Len Small. There were Japanese tumblers and the "Ride-of- 
Death," a motorcycle leap from one ramp to another. Then there 
was the ball game held on the diamond one block south of the 
park. 

Homecoming really meant homecoming as people ar- 
rived from everywhere by train and car. Among these were 
Hervey Fuller with his drum, Charlie Kilgore with his fife, and 
Hugh Smith and his squeeze box. My uncle, Dave Gibb, joined 
them with his calf rib bones. 

At night there were programs from the band stand. 
These programs ranged from talent shows to pantomimes. 

The American Legion conducted a bingo game on the 
north side, with Indian Blankets as prizes. My husband and I 
were lucky and accumulated quite a few of these. We were also 
lucky the first year of the drawing. The Picnic Committee 
raffled off several items to finance the picnic. We bought one 
twenty-five-cent ticket and drew the first prize. It was a chrome 
and enamel drop leaf kitchen table and four chairs finished in 
red and white. It was the nicest piece of furniture we had in the 
house. 

The South Henderson United Presbyterian and Meth- 
odist churches had eating stands. They served meals as well as 
hamburgers, hot dogs, pie and ice cream. One year a stand was 
selling a dipper of ice cream, dipped in chocolate and topped 
with a pecan half, while the barker chanted, "Cold as ice, sweet 
as honey, tickles all the way down and makes you feel funny." 



It must have bombed as they never came back. 

I had friends from Galesburg and Monmouth, who came 
down on the train, to stay during the picnic. Mother fed us all 
for supper and sometimes dinner. We all gobbled down the fried 
chicken, potato salad and cake, never giving a thought to the 
hours she spent over the cook stove fixing it. We all came, 
children, grandchildren, and friends. 

After they moved the picnic to the ball diamond, it was 
never the same. Those great days of anticipation and elation are 
gone forever. 



THE MARCH KING COMES TO MONMOUTH 

Martha K. Graham 

The county newspaper printed it in big ads, and bills 
tacked to telephone poles proclaimed it: The famous John 
Philip Sousa and his world-traveled military band would be 
coming to Monmouth to give a concert. The people of Warren 
County and adjacent counties were ecstatic. No one of such 
universal fame as John Philip Sousa, the March King, had 
appeared in Monmouth within anyone's memory. He was 
America's most famous composer of band music. People, high 
or low, whistled and hummed his famous march tunes: "The 
Washington Post March," "Semper Fidelis," "The Stars and 
Stripes Forever," and many more. 

Our family would go, of course, no matter how expensive 
the tickets might be. My mother got out her favorite album of 
Sousa's marches and played them all. But the piano couldn't do 
justice to them — no trumpets, no drums, no clarinets, no flutes 
and piccolos. She loved a parade: the marching bands invari- 
ably stepped lively to Sousa's stirring marches. From child- 
hood, Mother had gathered a fund of information about Sousa 



and his bands, and she made sure that we listened well to every 
enlightening thing she had to say about them. She told us that 
if women could be bandmasters, she would have tried to be one. 
But she had to settle for a piano and a family — not that she was 
sorry. 

When the great day came, my mother, my Aunt Millie, 
my grandfather, and my brother and I (about 8 or 10 then) 
excitedly crowded into our Rambler touring car , and with father 
driving, set off from our home town of Roseville for the twelve- 
mile trip to Monmouth. 

It was a fine day, but the dust stirred up in clouds by cars 
on the road settled so thickly on our dress-up clothes that 
Father had to stop and snap on the side curtains. We could see 
only dimly through the isinglass windows, but the dust dimin- 
ished. When the tires hammered on the mile or so stretch of 
brick pavement south of Monmouth's city limits, I knew we 
were almost there. 

Monmouth had roped off a block of brick-paved street 
just south of the old stone courthouse, and had set up a huge 
tent, with a big platform at the east end. Inside the tent were 
plank seats and folding wooden chairs from undertaker Lugg's 
establishment, among others. 

We were early enough to find good seats about a quarter 
of the way back from the stage. Soon there was not a vacant 
seat, and people were standing all around the outside of the tent 
where the canvas sides were rolled up. People were excited and 
happy. This was an occasion, and they had put aside the work- 
a-day world to celebrate. They looked around at the crowd, 
called to friends and visited together, waiting. 

There was an announcing blare of trumpets, and the 
celebrated band marched onto the stage and took their places in 
fine military order. In navy blue dress uniforms, their band 
instruments shining, they were a sight to behold. Then up the 
steps to the platform came the world-famous bandmaster, the 
March King. The cheers were deafening. 



Sousa was then well past middle age, but he leaped up 
those steps as if he were a young man of twenty. He radiated 
energy. Everything about him was spotless white — white hair 
under his white, gold braided military cap, white, straight- 
clipped mustache, white uniform with elaborate gold braid, and 
white gloves. His rimless glasses gleamed. 

He acknowledged his rousing reception with military 
bows, then lifted his white baton. His music seemed to come 
straight out of that baton. It was magic. 

Most people, I think, enjoy a concert of music that is 
familiar to them. Every march played that day must have been 
familiar to everyone there, even the young children. The 
audience sat entranced, and, as each march ended, the ap- 
plause seemed to go on forever. 

My mother pointed out an instrument that stood out 
because it was white among all the brass. It was a kind of tuba, 
wdth its large white bell jointed so it could face forward instead 
of upward, as a regular tuba does. She told me it was a 
Sousaphone, named in honor of the famous bandmaster. 

As the glorious afternoon went on, the formal military 
stance of the performers relaxed a little. Band members smiled. 
Sousa smiled. It was as if they could not help responding to such 
an appreciative audience in such a friendly atmosphere. Too, 
most of the people were keeping time with head, hand, or feet. 
Such a sight must have amused and pleased the band members. 
The great Sousa, back turned, missed this effect his music had 
on all those midwesterners from so many different walks of life. 

All too soon the wonderful concert was over. The band 
marched off the platform and down the steps like a military 
regiment. We hurried out, hoping to catch another glimpse of 
the blue uniforms and the spotless white one, but they were 
nowhere in sight. No doubt they were being spirited away to the 
city of their next concert. 

Monmouth had given them a rousing welcome and rapt 
attention. I was sure that they had liked us, as we had liked 



them, and that made me feel proud of Monmouth for hosting 
such marvelous musicians. They, world travelers, and their 
famous March King had actually trod the streets of our modest 
county seat, and, to us, had hallowed the very bricks of the 
pavements they walked on. I am safe in saying that such 
unabashed idolatry had not been known before, and has not 
been known since, in Monmouth or in Warren County. 

Sousa was a great man, universally loved and admired, 
whose stirring music warmed the hearts of many people, not 
just those select few who profess to know what music is all 
about. 

In after-concert euphoria, we stopped at a stand and had 
vanilla ice cream cones all around. Mother said to my brother 
and me, "Don't ever forget this day." I never did. The scene is 
as clear in my mind as if it had happened yesterday. 



THE CITY— AT ROODHOUSE 

Ruby H. Bridgman 

When someone in Roodhouse, even today, says he is 
going to The City, he does not mean he is going to a large 
metropolis. He is going to a park located about 3 or 4 miles 
southeast of town. The name originated from the fact that this 
was formerly the old city reservoir. Prior to 19 18, the people had 
used this reservoir for their "city" water even though its dis- 
agreeable odor and other impurities limited its use. Bathing, 
washing, and watering were the main uses of it. Many people 
had their own wells. In the backyard of our home was a well 
vrith a pump for drinking water, and, in addition, there was a 
pump on the back porch for cistern water which was used for 
washing. The old C. and A. Reservoir was originally used by the 
railroad, but the water from it coated the steam engine boilers. 



Therefore, it became necessary to find a new water supply. The 
people of Roodhouse and the railroad began a cooperative 
project to make Bishop Spring, which was about eight miles 
north and west of Roodhouse, the new source of city water. 

Dynamite was used in the excavation of the spring as 
well as a four-inch plunger-type pump, later increased to the 
size of eight inches. For power for pumping, threshing ma- 
chines were used. During the excavation a strange phenom- 
enon occurred. Unusual fish, with a rainbow variety of colors 
and highly sensitive to light and sound, appeared and were 
identified by authorities as fish unable to see. They were 
probably from an underground lake. A huge group of workers 
helped in building reservoirs, retaining walls, pipe lines, pump 
houses, and living quarters for employees. These workers and 
the volunteer "clean-up squad" were jubilant when on January 
7, 1921, the first water from this pure natural spring came 
through the city main. 

The C. and A. Reservoir was abandoned, but it acquired 
a unique, revitalized aspect. The City became the favorite 
"swimming" hole for Roodhouse and the surrounding communi- 
ties, especially White Hall. There was no need for a Country 
Club because The City was a renowned mecca for all ages. An 
in-town as well as an intertown social life revolved around The 
City, and this led to dating and to many marriages. 

The City was a large lake with a shallow sandy area that 
gradually led to quite deep water. There were two rafts, one 
which had a high diving board. A bathhouse with dressing 
rooms and showers also included a snack bar. On the railing 
fastened to the bathhouse was a wringer from an old fashioned 
washing machine, which was used to wring the water from the 
bathing suits. On the other side of the lake was a lovely wooded 
area used for picnicking and camping. 

During the 1930's The City reached its height as the hub 
of social life for the surrounding area in the summertime. At 
that time "Our Bunch," as my girlfriends and I called ourselves. 



went to The City every day, many times walking and carrying 
food for an all day picnic. We began a system of meticulous 
planning of the menu after one disastrous occasion when we all 
brought bananas. Many times we would carry skillets and pans 
and cook a breakfast of bacon and eggs. One memorable night 
at a slumber party, we decided to sleep in our bathing suits and 
then go to The City. Since bathing suits then were made of wool, 
we did more scratching than sleeping before we arose at 4 a.m. 
to start our trek to the reservoir. 

A woolen bathing suit provided a situation highly em- 
barrassing to me but thoroughly enjoyed by a young boy on the 
raft. During the winter, the moths had nibbled tiny holes in my 
suit. They were practically indiscernible until evidently a 
chemical reaction with the water caused great gaping holes to 
appear. This happened just as I was climbing out of the water 
onto the raft. I looked down, gave a screech, and bolted for the 
bathhouse, leaving the boy howling with laughter sprawled on 
the raft. Red-faced and frantic I ran with my hands crossed like 
two fig leaves in front of me. 

Often we would plead for the use of a family car with the 
promise of hours of household chores for its use. An old 
Chrysler, an ancient, but still grand Oakland, and an antique 
red Essex could match these small cars today for mileage. We 
would "pile into" one of them, "pool" our pennies, and drive to the 
filling station operated by Tom Coffman in the north end of 
town. We would hold up one finger and say, "Fill it up, Tom." He 
would laugh and, I'm sure, put in a few more drops of gasoline 
than the one gallon for which we paid. 

After our first all day session in the spring, we would all 
come home painfully sunburned after lying on our tummies on 
the raft most of the day. My mother, who always wore a 
sunbonnet and thought a girl's skin should be delicately white, 
would admonish me severely. Usually a very gentle person, she 
would say, "You knew better than this. I have absolutely no 
sympathy for you whatsoever," all the while tenderly patting 



sweet cream on the smarting back of her lanky daughter who 
was moaning with pain. My pitiful pleas of "Aw, Mom, not now, 
Puleeze . . ." were to no avail. 

I drove out to The City a year ago and was delighted with 
the recent renovation. I looked dreamily across the lake and 
visualized us with our bathing caps stuffed with candy bars (for 
a later lunch ) on top of our heads, "dog-paddling" to the raft that 
was located in the deeper water. 

"Well", I sighed," as they say. Them was the days!"' 



"running boards" on each side. The "driver" steered with an 
automobile steering wheel which was mounted on the front. 
Runners, as I remember it, were made of wood covered with 
steel. 

There were always a few young men who would eagerly 
give the loaded toboggan a "running push" to get it started down 
the hill going east. Soon the snow would become so packed it 
was like a sheet of ice. Then the fun started. Toboggan drivers 
(and occupants) had a contest to see how far the vehicle would 
go before it stopped. The farthest anyone ever went was to 
Austin Avenue, which is a little more than a block from the 



COASTING ON THE MARTIN STREET BRIDGE 

Louise Parker Simms 

For the first twenty-four years of my life, I lived at 401 
East Martin Street in Abingdon. This is only one block east of 
the Burlington Northern Railroad, formerly the Chicago, 
Burlington, and Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad. Consequently, the 
sights and sounds of the railroad were veiy much a part of my 
early life. 

One of these familiar sights was the Martin Street 
Bridge over the railroad. This bridge with its long approaches 
was the source of pleasant memories — memories of moonlit 
winter nights when the bridge was crowded with young people 
and adults who found the east side of the bridge an ideal place 
to coast when the ground was covered with snow. 

In addition to a number of regular sleds that held one or 
two people, we always had two or more toboggans made by my 
father, Jimmie Parker, a blacksmith, and his brother, Orlie 
Parker, who also had a blacksmith shop in the same block as my 
father's. 

These toboggans would hold about six people, who 
straddled the long center section and placed their feet on the 



Of course, the slick, packed snow did not make climbing 
back up the hill easy. Many fell on the way up, but everyone had 
on so much warm clothing that no one was ever injured when 
they fell. 

My parents, who were always part of the coasting crowd, 
left their outside basement door unlocked so all those who 
wished could warm themselves by the coal-fired furnace. 

Martin Street Bridge is not good for coasting now, since 
vehicle traffic is too heavy on the street which leads to Knox 
County Road 23. But traffic was much lighter in the 1920's, and 
there were plenty of people waiting their turn to coast down the 
hill who could signal a warningif a vehicle approached. We now 
have many more automobiles, and our lifestyles have changed. 
But when I was a kid we had some pleasures which compen- 
sated for the lack of cars — and coasting on the Martin Street 
Bridge was one of them. 



THE ONCE IN A LIFETIME NIGHT 

Sidney Jeanne Seward 

A teepee of flame shot high from the bonfire on the Rock 
Island side of the river. People huddled around the blaze 
warming themselves. It was a beautiful night, and out on the ice 
young and old were skating, with steel blades clamped onto 
their shoes. In those days skates were held on by a leather strap 
slipped through the metal heel and buckled around the ankle. 
Clamps fitted on the toes of the shoes and were screwed onto the 
soles with a key. If the skates were not secure, a nasty fall could 
result. Shoemakers liked the winter days because they did a 
lucrative business replacing soles ravaged by the tearing jaws 
of the skate clamps. 

It had been exceptionally cold that year of 1916-17. For 
days throughout the winter the temperature had hovered near 
zero. Now the Mississippi River was deeply frozen — so deep 
that even heavily loaded drays could safely cross to Davenport, 
Iowa, on the ice. 

My family did a lot of walking in those days. Summer or 
winter we walked to wherever we were going. Fortunately for 
me, my father was a tall, strong man and I made a lot of the 
journeys on my father's shoulders. 

We had started out from home that starry night at my 
father's urging. Neither my mother nor I knew where he was 
taking us. All he would say was that we must dress warmly. I 
remember that Mother had a wine colored velvet hat and a 
black, plush coat. That night my father wore his long, dark 
overcoat and a cap with earmuffs. I remember wearing a 
sweater under my blue velvet coat. A scarf was wound around 
my face and over my velvet bonnet. White, knitted leggings 
protected my legs from the cold. On my hands were white 
mittens connected by a long, crocheted string that ran around 
the back of my neck and down each sleeve with a mitten poking 
out of the end. My white, rubber boots had a bright, red tassel 



on the front. When we reached the river, we joined the crowd 
near the fire. We were cold after our long, twenty-block walk 
and the heat of the roaring fire was welcome. 

Soon my father, laughing, swung me back up on his 
shoulders and said, "C'mon, honey, let's go walk on the water!" 
With the stars twinkling overhead, we three ventured out on 
the gleaming river ice. We walked from Rock Island, Illinois to 
Davenport, Iowa and back again! When we were well out 
toward the middle of the river. Dad swung me down onto the ice 
so that I, too, walked on the frozen water. 

From shore to shore the river was the scene of spontane- 
ous carnival. A team of roan horses pulled a sleigh filled with 
merrymakers toward the Iowa shore. The sleighbells on the 
horses' harness mingled with the happy shouts of skaters. 
Some were cutting figure eights, and others were playing a 
game of crack the whip. The last child in the long whip always 
seemed to be the smallest, trying to prove he was old enough to 
play the rowdy game. Poor little sod! He never had a chance of 
hanging on. That night he went sailing off the end of the line 
and down the river. Mother was frightened as the child 
careened away from the group. "Oh, John," she cried, "what if 
he hits a patch of soft ice?" Dad reassured her with the reminder 
of how long the river had been frozen and how brutally cold it 
had been. 

We were west of the government bridge as we made our 
crossing — that same wonderful bridge that now spans the river 
from the Rock Island Arsenal to Davenport. (It is the only 
bridge in the world having train tracks above and vehicular 
traffic below that turns 360 degrees.) 

As we returned to Rock Island, we heard the long, 
mournful sound of a train whistle as it carefully approached the 
bridge. We waited at the bonfire until the train had safely made 
its noisy crossing. The sound of wheels grinding on the tracks 
and cars crashing together carried far out over the countryside. 

Two plumes of smoke rose into the starry sky — one from 



the steam engine on the bridge, one from the fire on the bank of 
the river. From every person gathered there, small wisps of 
steam rose as their breath met the cold, night air. 

It was a special night, a-once-in-a-lifetime night, a night 
to remember. And it was seventy-five years ago. 



MY SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN SPRINGFIELD 

Gloria L. Taylor 

When I moved to Springfield to accept the first job of my 
life at the Illinois State Library, I was young and lacking in 
experience. I was qualified for the position, but I was short on 
general knowledge. I had never had to manage my life before, 
and I was used to living in a big city. I did not know any one in 
Springfield, and I could instantly see that life was not moving 
in the "fast lane" as it was in my home town, Chicago. I was 
small physically, and so was my pay check. Because of my lack 
of experience, I felt that the pay check was fair. But I was not 
happy there. 

I rented a one-room furnished apartment, and after the 
rent was paid the balance of my money went for long distance 
calls or trips back to Chicago to be with my friends. I spent very 
little on food, and I walked to and from work. My problem was 
loneliness. After a couple of months of this I was more than 
ready to start making foot tracks along the highway leading 
back to Chicago. 

Just at this time a woman who lived in the community 
started to visit me. She taught me how to cook on the small stove 
in my apartment. This saved me money. She also taught me 
that a pot of beans would feed me for several days. She showed 
me where the day-old bakery was located, and she often invited 
me along with some of her other friends, to her home for dinner. 



I began to manage better because I wanted to invite them to my 
place. 

My new friends and I began to go to interesting places 
around town. They were not glamorous, neon-lighted places 
like the ones in Chicago, but they were interesting and steeped 
in local history. I always did like that kind of thing, but I had 
forgotten about it. My trips back home became fewer, and so did 
the phone calls. 

At this important time in my life I felt like a piece of 
rough metal being hammered into fine steel. It was truly the 
turning point in my life. As I became more familiar with the 
community I realized that there were others less fortunate than 
I was, and that I could be more useful with my life. For the first 
time I was able to commune with my soul. I had never before 
known that I had a depth within me which I had never used. 

One day a lady in Springfield told me about a two- 
month-old baby girl who was at the hospital . She was born with 
serious problems and did not have long to live. I wanted to fill 
what time she had left with love and comfort, so I legally 
adopted her. I named her Angel Celeste. She was in every way 
a celestial angel, and we had great times together. 

However, when she reached the age of two years she 
showed signs of not feeling well. The doctors in Springfield and 
Chicago could not help her. I had a friend whose husband was 
an expert pediatrician, so I took the baby to him. On our fourth 
day there, when I was looking out of the window wondering 
what to do next, I suddenly noticed that the sun had lost its 
glow, the trees looked dark and strangely tall. A swarm of black 
birds suddenly flew up from the barren trees and soared across 
the dark skies. My heart was pounding against my chest, and 
I was stricken with fear to the depths of my very being. I went 
to the bed and I saw that my little Angel had passed away. It 
is impossible to tell how sad and lonely I felt. 

I learned another lesson that day, how to accept heart- 
ache, how to hold up through the experience of ultimate sorrow. 



I also learned how wonderful it is to have real friends. My the making of me. All that I know or ever expect to learn, all that 

friends in Springfield offered their help and stayed close by me I have done, or ever expect to accomplish, I owe to those people. 

during that difficult time, both day and night. They were an They are what made Springfield my home town, 
inspiration to me. 

I shall always be thankful for having such wonderful 
neighbors. They taught me sympathy and strength. They were 




II ^he Roaring twenties 



THE ROARING TWENTIES 

The Twenties was an era of rapidly changing values and 
considerable social conflict, of individualism and anxiety, of 
lawbreaking and frivolous nonsense. It was arguably the first 
decade of the twentieth century — that is, the first to be charac- 
terized by twentieth-century values and problems. 

Women won the right to vote with the ratification of the 
Nineteenth Amendment in 1919, and Ruth Rogers remembers 
the excitement of that first visit of her mother and grandmother 
to the polls. But women in the 1920s also wanted to do much 
more — attend college, work outside the home, and enjoy a less 
restricted social life. Some also wanted to dance the Charleston, 
drive a car, and perhaps smoke cigarettes and drink cocktails as 
well. In short, women wanted to enjoy the same social life as 
men. So, the rebellious "flapper" appeared, wearing bobbed 
hair and a short skirt. 

As the number of cars multiplied and movies brought a 
glamorous world to everyday people, there was a restless 
questing for good times. Young people began to throw off the 
shackles of tradition and attempt to rewrite the rules of social 
behavior. No wonder Madge Bates Dodson looks back on the 
Twenties as a wonderful era of "new freedoms, great music, 
exciting dances, and happy times with friends." 

But Prohibition forces had succeeded in passing the 
Eighteenth Amendment, forbidding the manufacture and sale 
of alcoholic beverages, so men and women alike broke the law 
in unprecedented numbers as the illegal liquor traffic soared. 
By 1922, half a million Americans were involved in bootlegging, 
and organized crime had begun to realize enormous profits. 

The memoir writers in this section recall a variety of 
experiences with bootleggers and speakeasies. Madge Bates 
Dodson recalls visiting a speakeasy in Quincy , for example, and 
Helen Sherill Smith describes a floating bar and casino that 
brought good times to people along the Illinois River. The 



memoirs by Irene Vander Vennet and Sidney Jeanne Seward 
recall humorous bootlegging incidents, but F. Mary Currie's 
piece is just the opposite — a frightening account of a barn dance 
that ended with a terrifying police raid. 

The conservative reaction to bootlegging and the "new 
morality" was predictable, and it was especially forceful in 
small towns and rural areas where good country life seemed to 
be invaded by immoral city values. Many people became 
frustrated and fearful, inflexible and authoritarian. Revival- 
ism flourished as preachers attacked the deadly poison of 
"modernism," and the Ku Klux Klan spread throughout the 
rural Midwest, intimidating drinkers. Catholics, Jews, and 
others. No wonder Lillian Nelson Combites declares that 
"There was much about the Roaring Twenties that was not 
good" as she recalls the Klan in her area. 

Writings about the 1920s are so often focused on law- 
breaking and frivolity that we tend to forget that the lives of 
most people were seldom touched by those things. Mary I. 
Brown asserts that "the new hard-surfaced roads" had a greater 
impact on her family than either the Eighteenth or Nineteenth 
Amendment, and that was surely true for most other families in 
downstate Illinois. The increasing mobility brought by cars and 
hard-surfaced, all-weather roads did much to end rural isola- 
tion, but it also initiated the decline of farm-center communi- 
ties, as Ralph Eaton points out at the close of "Augusta's Turkey 
Trot." By the end of the decade, people in ever-increasing 
numbers were shopping and visiting regularly at the county 
seats and such larger communities as Peoria, Quincy, and 
Springfield. For that reason, the Twenties was a pivotal period 
of cultural change in Illinois, as it was throughout much of 
America. 

The wonderful closing memoir in this section, "Roaring 
Softly: The Twenties in Lebanon" by Grace R. Welch, offers a 
kind of corrective to many other, more exciting accounts of the 
Roaring Twenties. After all, what we say about life in the Jazz 



Age is commonly what our culture tells us was important then, 
but, in reality, everyday affairs — the joys and sorrows of family 
and community life — had greater significance for most people. 
They always do. 

John E. Hallwas 



THE KID FROM THE ROARING TWENTIES 

Armour F. Van Briesen 

Any kid who was growing up in the "Roaring Twenties" 
will tell you that it was the most interesting and exciting decade 
of the century. The country had pretty well recovered from the 
World War and it was a happy time. People were strumming 
ukuleles and dancing the Charleston along with drinking bath- 
tub gin. Girls wore long-wasted dresses with short skirts and 
little bowl-shaped hats. Young men wore wide-bottom trousers 
and lumber jackets. College boys wore coonskin coats, and 
gangsters could be identified by their black overcoats and light 
grey hats. 

New things were happening all around. The first na- 
tional radio broadcast came from KDKA Pittsburg. Zippers 
were first introduced on women's overshoes. Air-mail routes 
were established and beacon lights were installed every forty 
miles to guide the air-mail flyers at night with their arc-lights 
across the sky. Charles Lindbergh was the hero of the day, and 
when talking pictures came out, new fabulous theaters and 
hotels went up in the large cities. People became conscious of 
the underworld when the Valentine's Day Massacre happened 
in 1929, and the stockmarket crash later in the year caused the 
happy times to limp into the 1930s, and by June, a 1930 high- 
school graduate could not find a job. 

By 1920, the soldiers who had returned from Europe 
were getting married to the sweetheart they left behind, and 
some of them brought a bride over from France. New houses 
were being built for them and would have indoor plumbing and 
electricity. Factories were also making furniture for these new 
homes. Thirty-five cents an hour was considered a good wage. 

There were no frozen or fast foods in the stores of the 
Roaring Twenties. Just staple items were on sale as people 
cooked from scratch, and such items as potato chips, chili, and 
other big items of this day were seldom served. There were no 



drive-ins or fast food places around either. There were hot-dog 
stands in the parks and on street corners. Restaurants cooked 
everything from scratch: potatoes were peeled and mashed in 
the kitchen and brown gravy was made from meat drippings. 
Home made pies were served for dessert. 

There were lunch rooms that served short orders and 
sandwiches. Most of the sandwiches were ham or cheese. 
Hamburgers had not yet caught on and there was a good reason. 
The meat coolers in the markets were not very efficient and 
after the meat was cut and on display for a day, it was discol- 
ored. It was then ground into hamburger and sold three pounds 
for a quarter. It was cheap food for a family. Even if it was 
slightly tainted, it was still eatable. It was something a person 
wouldn't order if he was getting a sandwich. It took the eating 
places a long time to convince people that their meat was fresh 
ground beef, but after people caught on, the hamburger became 
a popular food. Most of them sold for 5c or 10c with trimmings. 

If a kid was lucky and his folks thought he earned it, he 
would get an ice cream cone every second day and a bottle of pop 
once a week. There were some good soft drinks on the market: 
Wilson's Old Crow ginger ale was made in Rockford, Illinois and 
there was Green River, Cherry Blossom, and of course Coca- 
Cola. There were no Pepsi, Royal Crown, or other colas on the 
market. 

The Roaring Twenties were great for kids in the country 
or in a small town. The community pool was the old swimming 
hole and the kids were always healthy. The boys wore overalls 
and went barefoot to school. They did not want to be city 
slickers. Parties were held at school and the churches, and hot 
cocoa was served in the winter and lemonade in the summer. 
There were no cans of pop. A teacher could go to teacher's 
college for one term and a six-week summer course and then 
could get a job teaching for $50 per month. 

The Roaring Twenties would not have been near so 
exciting if it had not been for Prohibition. No sooner had the 



Volstead Act taken effect when stills were springing up all 
around. Kids were playing bootlegger and gangster and using 
the new words such as hootch, moonshine, blind pig, etc. Small 
town doctors and druggists soon had things going too. A doctor 
or druggist could get alcohol for medical purposes so the doctor 
wouJd write out a prescription and the druggist would fill it in 
a bottle, slightly diluted and with a little coloring, and label it 
"Cough Medicine." The doctor and druggist both got a profit and 
many women wondered why their husbands kept a bottle of 
cough medicine in the barn. 

A speakeasy or blind pig could be found anywhere from 
a church basement to an apartment on Park Avenue. When 
saloons were closed up, roadhouses opened up for dine and 
dance. There was often a bootleg operation going on. If a raid 
was expected, the cargo was often buried in the backyard or the 
bottles broken. A broken bottle could not be used for evidence. 
In the big cities, there were big operators and gang wars, 
increasing all through Prohibition. Al Capone and Bugs Moran 
made a name for themselves and rocked the country with the 
famous Valentine's Day massacre of 1929. 

The plain-Jane cars were becoming dream-boats. A 
Model T Ford could be bought for as little as $280 and most kids 
knew how to drive them. Hudson-Essex was the world's largest 
producer of axles and the world's third largest manufacturer of 
cars. 

School-kids always knew what was going on in the world 
from hearing the grownups talk of the "Teapot Dome Scandal" 
of the Harding administration, and then "Silent" Cal Coolidge, 
who was worried about people buying on the installment plan 
and having too much debt. Also, he was worried about the 
increase in crime and the many gang wars. 

Hoover proclaimed in his inaugural address that the 
country was on the dawn of the most prosperous time ever 
known. His cabinet were wealthy bankers and business men 
like himself, but they could not prevent the stockmarket crash, 



the closing of banks, and the Depression. 

The kids of the Roaring Twenties, like me, have fond 
memories of the days when everybody made do with what they 
had and the government was a small operation. They were 
golden years. 



MY RECOLLECTIONS OF THE ROARING TWENTIES 

Madge Bates Dodson 

My school days took place in the Twenties at Maplewood 
School in Camp Point, Illinois. I'm not sure how "roaring" they 
were, but they were exciting nonetheless. In 1923 I was twelve 
years old and ready for high school. I still had long curls. The 
movies that I saw showed the girls with "bobbed" hair and short 
skirts. I had to do something about my hair. My mother finally 
consented to let me have the curls cut off. I went to the local 
barber shop. The barber not only cut off my curls, he shingled 
the back up to the crown of my head. Now it was really "bobbed." 
I went home and gave my doll, who had long curls, a haircut. 
Now she looked just like me. My mother was not happy about 
our looks, but I felt right in style. 

My girlfriends and I were great silent movie fans, and we 
had our favorite stars. I had all their pictures pasted in a large 
book. Camp Point had a movie theater on the second floor of the 
Baley Opera House. A musician always played the piano during 
the movie. They chose their music according to what was 
happening on the screen. In fact, the stage, dressing rooms, and 
curtain are still there but in very bad shape. The admission was 
25(2 for adults and lOc for children. Later the price went up to 
35(2 and 150. Some of the movies we saw in those years were The 
Vanishing American, starring Richard Dix, Beau Geste with 
Ronald Colman, The Last Frontier with William Boyd, and 



Daddy starring Jackie Coogan. Once in awhile we were able to 
see a movie in Quincy, Illinois. They had several theaters. 
Some of them were the Star, the Orpheum, the Family, and the 
Belasco. When the new Washington opened in Quincy, Illinois, 
it looked so beautiful to all of us. In 1927 the father of one of my 
friends took four of us to the Washington to see Al Jolson in The 
Jazz Singer. The conversation was silent, but the music and 
songs were in sound. The movie was so sad. We all cried and 
loved every minute of it. The first talking movie was made in 
1928. 

Four of us girls formed a fan club for Richard Dix. We 
met at each other's homes, played cards, talked about our "idol," 
and ate popcorn and fudge. We also tried to learn all the latest 
dance steps. My folks had an old Victrola with the big horn. 
Another girl had a player-piano. We loved to dance to Chloe. 
Some of These Days, and At Sundown, to name a few. We 
managed to learn the Fox Trot, Charlestown, and the Waltz. 
Naturally we called ourselves the A.O.R.D.s, the admirers of 
Richard Dix. I still have an autographed photo of him. 

In the early Twenties, the "hard road" was built through 
Camp Point. It is now known as U.S. 24. What a thrill to be able 
to travel to Quincy on a paved road. We could hardly wait for 
Dad to take us for a ride in our car. The car was a Model T Ford 
touring. In the summer, very breezy. In the winter, the side 
curtains were buttoned on, and you hoped they wouldn't come 
loose in zero weather. It was a big occasion to drive to Quincy 
Christmas shopping. Mother would heat bricks to keep our feet 
warm and cover us who were in the back seat with a comforter. 
I believe my Dad had some kind of a heater in the front seat. 

In 1926 my sister Bess and her husband came to visit 
before they started for California. They had a Model T Ford 
coupe. They planned to drive to California and with their gear 
and camp along the way. In fact, that is just what they did. I 
don't remember how long the journey was, but it took a long 
time in 1926. While in Camp Point, Bess and I took a trip to 



Quincy. We went on the morning train. After arriving in 
Quincy, we ate lunch and then went to see the movie Peter Pan 
starring Betty Bronson. After the movie we went to the Quincy 
Hotel for dinner. Itwas very impressive to my eyes. There were 
formally dressed waiters, and there was lots of silverware on 
the tables. After dinner we went to another movie. It was The 
Merry Widow with Mae Murray and John Gilbert. Then we 
went back to Camp Point on the late train. What a day! I talked 
and bragged about it for months, and sixty some years later I 
still remember that day. 

In the twenties, the CB&Q railroad had at least four or 
five passenger trains running daily between Chicago and Quincy. 
Also, there were many freight trains. Camp Point had a huge 
water tower next to the tracks by the depot. Many times the 
trains going through stopped and took on water. The reservoir 
south of town supplied water for the tower. There was a 
pumping station there and that was owned by the railroad. My 
family lived in the west part of town near the tracks. This area 
was called "Dublin," so-called because many Irish families lived 
there when the railroad was being built. The old Catholic 
church stood on ground a block back of our house. The old 
church is gone and a new one was built far away from "Dublin." 
A cousin, Clarence Thomas, was an engineer on the CB&Q. 
Whenever he went through, he would really blow the whistle. 
We would all race outside and wave. 

In my junior year ( 1927), my brother Bill sent me money 
to buy a prom dress. I was in seventh heaven, of course. I 
couldn't believe my good fortune. My folks took me to Quincy 
shopping. I purchased a lovely dress in shades of green taffeta. 
It had an uneven hemline, short in front and longer in back. It 
was beautiful . The bodice buttoned in back at the neckline with 
a long bow hanging down. Where it buttoned, it made a small 
triangle and showed my bare back. It was so daring (or 
Roaring?). In fact, it was so daring my mother sewed a piece of 
lace in the triangle. I wasn't allowed to be "Roaring" after all. 



This was also Prohibition time. By the time I was 
eighteen, I had sneaked a few puffs on cigarettes and tasted a 
Httle homemade wine. I also knew who was making home brew, 
wine, and "rotgut" whiskey. Once we actually dared to go to a 
"speakeasy" in Quincy. Our boyfriends took my girlfriend and 
me. We really thought we were being very daring, and I guess 
we were. We were scared to death the cops would raid the joint 
while we were there. The boys knocked on the door and gave the 
password. We entered and were escorted to the basement 
where we sat around a kitchen table and sipped on some kind 
of red drink. I don't know if it was a sloe gin or poor wine. 

The Roaring Twenties for me was a great time. There 
were new freedoms, great music, exciting dances, and happy 
times with friends. I still enjoy the music and dancing. Every- 
one was optimistic about the future. We thought our country 
was the greatest and was going on to bigger and better things. 
The stockmarket crash of 1929 put an end to those dreams for 
some time. The Roaring Twenties were over. 



IF YOU WERE A FLAPPER IN 1922 

Audrey Ashley-Runkle 

It is the summer of 1922. If you are a teenage girl 
wanting to get along with your life, you would want to dress like 
other young women who were having good times. In order to 
look "keen," "groovy," like "the cat's meow," and "in the swing of 
things," you would dress like a flapper. 

Undergarments would be a brassiere that flattened out 
the bust line, panties or Teddies, and a knee-length slip. The 
Teddy was a panty item that you stepped into. You wore a 
support belt for your hose also. It was a narrow belt with four 
long supporters that would reach to your hose-or some had six 



supporters, for front, side, and back. 

Hose was usually silk and expensive, and the silk ran 
easily. Your hose might be Japanese silk, artificial silk, fine 
lisle, or cotton. Hose had seams, sometimes starting at the toe, 
but later starting at the heel. In 1922, girls had to straighten 
their seams from time to time. 

Your shoes would be low-heeled slippers, or for dress, 
you might wear high-heeled shoes. 

You would have to have a white, accordion-pleated, 
knee-length skirt. The pleats in the medium crepe would be 
small and run from the waistband back to the narrow hem. 
With this skirt you would wear a mere nothing of a sleeveless 
blouse. 

Your hair would be cut short. In most cases you would 
have to get it cut in a man's barber shop. (Men were not 
comfortable with women in their shops). You might wear bangs. 
Many girls did. On occasion you might have a marcel at a beauty 
parlor. The marcel iron was a two-pronged iron heated on a 
small canned heat stove. You would have waves around your 
head. At home you could curl your own hair with kid curlers. 
Such a curler was about four inches long, made of kid leather 
with wire inside. You would roll up your hair on these and let 
them set for an hour or more. You could use a curling iron 
yourself and heat the iron by placing it at the top of a lighted 
lamp chimney. For color you could use henna or peroxide. 

You tweezed your eyebrows until they became a fine line 
a la Marlene Dietrich. You also pursed your lips to make them 
"cupid's bow" lips like Betty Boop and Clara Bow. Your 
manners became what you saw at the movies. 

Dressed like this you would be ready for dancing, say, at 
the Country Club. At the club, you would dance every "set" 
played by the band. The band would have at least one saxo- 
phone, trumpet, trombone, set of drums, piano and string bass 
or guitar. It would play the latest tunes, including foxtrots, 
waltzes, and perhaps Charlestons. You would know all the 



29 



words to the music. Since all windows of homes and clubs were 
wide open to relieve the summer heat, people all around would 
listen to the band as the music wafted on the air. Around one 
o'clock the dance would end with "I'll See You in My Dreams". 
Next day you would be criticized for being a bit wild, and 
your mother would be on the spot for letting you go to dances 
when you were only sixteen years old. But it would be worth the 
criticism to share the fun of being a flapper in 1922. 



was suspected of being "wet" with more than river water, but 
since alcoholic drinks were illegal in the early days of the dance 
hall, bootleg liquor must have been passed around surrepti- 
tiously rather than openly. The surrounding community re- 
garded the place with considerable suspicion, and the line 
between "wild" and respectable was drawn with the question, 
"Does she go to the dance hall?" 

In an effort to placate the community, picnic tables were 
installed and gradually the more staid residents of the county 
began to meet there for picnics-in the daytime, of course. 



THE FLORENCE DANCE HALL 

Margaret L. Cock rum 

During the Twenties, after the construction of Route 36 
had made wandering about at night more feasible, one enter- 
prising Pike County resident who had a bit of land bordering the 
Illinois River decided to provide a meeting place for the pursuit 
of interesting night life-a place where the boys with their family 
"flyers" could take their girls with their boyish bobs and their 
straight, short, long waisted dresses for a night-if not on the 
town, at least on the village. So, the Florence dance pavilion 
was built. 

It was a low, round, or perhaps octagonal building, 
reminiscent of the roof over a merry-go-round, and I seem to 
remember that it was painted orange. It was built on the 
narrow sandy plain between the bluff and the river, with brave 
disregard for any wandering rattlesnakes. It must have been at 
least a slight additional attraction that anyone not too busy 
with the music and dancing could watch the riverboats as they 
churned their way up and down the river. 

Of course, from time to time high water would lap 
around the edges of the building, and the measure of a flood was 
"How close is the water to the Florence Dance Hall?" The spot 



THE TWENTIES IN MCDONOUGH COUNTY 

Lillian Nelson Combites 

I remember a good deal about what went on in the 1920s 
in McDonough County. 

As to women voting in the Twenties, it was a settled 
issue by then. I never knew of any women in an official capacity, 
only a Post Mistress. I do remember the parties running for an 
office coming to the door to talk to my mother, vying for a vote. 
They always gave each of us a candy bar and the men a cigar. 
Candy bars only cost 5c then. As we only had two brothers, and 
they didn't smoke, I don't recall the price of cigars. They were 
given candy bars too. We hardly had candy, only when we paid 
the grocery bill and the grocer gave us a generous sack of candy 
free. If we ever could spare any sugar, my sister would make 
fudge. When we had sore throats, we made vinegar candy (a 
hard, clear candy) to suck on. We did look forward to election 
time. Mama never voted for the party, but for the individual. 

A big issue then was women cutting their hair. All 
women wore long hair with braids wound around their head, on 
top of their head with buns, or on back of the head. Then the 



30 



craze of short hair came and men and women had a battle of the 
sexes. Some women came to my mother as they wouldn't be 
caught in a man's barber shop. I remember one of our school 
teachers came and my mother cut her beautiful hair. Her 
husband was so angry with her they almost separated. For a 
long time they had bad feelings. Times have really changed. 
Now men go to women's salons and get hair styled and permed. 

There were also bootleggers in the Twenties. I know this 
to be a fact as some lived across the street. All day, even in 
summer, the smoke poured from the chimney and the smell was 
in the air. At all hours cars came and went with men. Some- 
times they were so drunk, they fell asleep and sat for hours. We 
were afraid to be out at night in our own yard. Nothing was ever 
done to them. There were others around, but no one com- 
plained. 

There was a man about a half block from us that drank 
so and got raving crazy-''snakes in his boots" they called it. You 
could hear him all over the neighborhood. His children would 
hide out in the shed and the stepmother crawled out the 
bedroom window and came to our house and stayed until he 
passed out and slept it off. She finally left him with their two 
children and returned to the town she came from. His children 
left home when they were old enough. He continued to drink 
until he died. Years before, my father had been an alcoholic and 
had committed suicide, leaving five children under ten years of 
age, and I wasn't born yet. The price of drinking was high for 
my mother and her six children who grew up without a father. 

We also had the Klu Klux Klan. One night when mama 
was up with the toothache, cars stopped down the street around 
this man's house. Hooded men got out and crossed over to his 
home and set up a cross and lit it. Mama got us up out of bed and 
we watched it bum. This was a warning he had better mend his 
ways or pay the consequences. It never did any good. Later they 
came again and burned another cross. It was real scary for us 
children. 



Yes, the Klu Klux Klan was very active in McDonough 
County. They met at my sister's boyfriend's folks' farm north of 
Sciota. She went to one of the meetings. There were also some 
KKK groups around Blandinsville and Stronghurst. It was so 
unfair as some members we knew were as bad as the ones they 
were criticizing. One Klan member we knew drank and beat his 
children and kicked his wife. I don't know how long the Klan 
was active, but fortunately it finally disbanded. 

There was much about the Roaring Twenties that was 
not good, and I'm glad those things are gone. 



WHEN WOMEN VOTED IN 1920 

Ruth Rogers 

My family lived in Fulton County, in the Barnes School 
District, which is in Lee Township. This is east of Bushnell, 
Illinois. My mother, Ida Wheeler Murphy, was a school teacher. 
She had been since 1909. She was an unusually independent 
woman for her time and she was very interested in history. So, 
of course, her interest turned to the plight of women. I can 
remember hearing her talk and talk about women not being 
allowed to vote. I sometimes suspected that the men in our 
family were not so thrilled to hear her lamenting about this big 
interest of hers. Then, in 1920, women were given the right to 
vote. At the age of nine, I did not understand the full importance 
of the event. I did not know about the historical background, nor 
the strength of the women and some men who had fought 
through the years for the rights of women. 

Everything was excitement that morning. My mother 
said history was being made. She said the Armistice had settled 
things for many countries, but what was happening all over the 
United States, that day, would affect all women for all time. 



The women in our family were going to vote for the first 
time. My mother had managed to get herself and my grand- 
mother, Elizabeth Laneuy Wheeler, registered to vote in this 
great 1920 election. Grandma grumbled and growled about 
going to the election, but finally went along with mom in the 
matter. Remembering my mother, I'm sure she wished my 
sister, Myrle Murphy (Rouse), and I were old enough to add two 
more votes to the cause. 

My grandfather, Joseph Henry Wheeler, a Civil War 
veteran, then in his late seventies, must have felt a little like 
President John Adams, who feared "petticoat government," as 
he walked into that small Virgil School building. In those days, 
school was dismissed in the buildings where the elections were 
held. The little wooden cubby holes, with a curtain over the 
front, to give the voter privacy, were set up in one corner of the 
school room. The teacher's desk was used for voter checking and 
picking up the printed ballot. To the side on a little table sat a 
locked box with a slot in the top, in which to drop the marked 
ballots. Everything was much the same as country and small 
town voting is done today. The big difference was that all 
election officials were men. Remember, women were not al- 
lowed in our countries' election places until after the second 
Tuesday in November, 1920. 

I'm glad my mother saw fit to take her children. I have 
a memory of an important event. Today I can't remember what 
my grandfather said about taking his women to an event where 
previously only men had been allowed. But he was a smart man; 
he could talk to a politician, a preacher, or a tramp with equal 
ease. However, when my grandmother "made up her mind" 
about something he would retreat to the silence and pleasant 
safety of his barn's entryway. However, this day he just brought 
us to vote. My bachelor uncle, William Wheeler, my mother's 
brother, who lived with us, wasn't so kind. He was always 
teasing, but that day he said angry, unkind things to Mom, and 
Grandma and refused to go along with us to vote for Warren 



Harding for president. 

Nevertheless, women had obtained a victory. All her life 
my mother never failed to exercise her right to vote. Little did 
we know on that cold day in November what a long, hard battle 
it would be for women to obtain other freedoms and eventual 
equality. 



THE ROARING TWENTIES IN BROWNING 

Helen Sherrill Smith 

The decade from 1920 to 1930 were rip-roaring years, 
both in the world around us and the country and towns we lived 
in. The world was putting itself back together after a world war; 
the country was leaning toward isolationism; farmers were 
beset by high tariffs and crop surpluses. Men, hardened by the 
trials of war, wanted better working conditions while employers 
fought unions, and federal courts crushed strikes by injunction. 
The Klu Klux Klan increased membership in the Midwest as 
well as in the southern states, promoting attacks upon Catho- 
lics, Jews, Negroes, and foreigners, creating a reign of terror in 
its wake. But "Big Business" prospered, with stock speculation 
and real estate booms soaring into the bull market of the last 
years of the decade. 

In our area of river towns with their in-built tendencies 
to play as hard as they worked, the era of more money, the Model 
T Ford, canned food, more ready-made clothing, outboard mo- 
tors, electric washing machines and irons, and the feelings that 
good times were due us after the terrible war, led to a light- 
hearted attitude. 

The young, swept up in the more permissive attitudes 
and with the freedoms of cars, music from radios, and sensa- 
tional newspaper accounts of high living society debs, motion 



picture stars, and murder trials, shocked the older generations 
with short skirts, rolled down hose, and bobbed and shingled 
hair. Galoshes, those utilitarian four bucklers to wade through 
snow, became a fashion item, worn unbuckled and flapping 
open, a real fashion statement. 

But in our town, the most traumatic event of the Twen- 
ties was the Eighteenth Amendment, passed in 1919, prohibit- 
ing the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor. People in 
Browning had voted the village dry since early days, but that 
did not mean no drinking. Fishing folk, who fought the ele- 
ments daily, believed freedom to drink, if they pleased, was a 
God-given right. So river towns drank illegally. Gangsters took 
over the bootlegging business, especially in the big towns. In 
smaller towns like Beardstown, enterprising householders 
cleared out basements and put in a bar, some tables, and a juke 
box-and so local speakeasies were born. Some real liquor was 
brought in, but a lot of the home brewed variety was sold as well. 
Stills were set up and "white lightning" produced; beer could be 
set up in stone jars and soon bottled, and anyone could produce 
drinkable wine or bathtub gin in a few days. 

Browning had no real speakeasies where one could set in 
a social atmosphere and drink, but potent drink was available. 
Home brewed beer was common, though not for sale. But a few 
entrepreneurs made a business of it. There was a large white 
house on the road to the river where one could most always buy 
a pint at the back door; a cabin boat at the river bank where a 
constant card game was in session also had liquid refreshments. 
A house on stilts up river from town was visited by fishermen 
who often arrived home in a happier state than when they 
started their day. And a couple in a cabin boat near a creek 
mouth up river made excellent wild grape wine, sold only at the 
door, a dollar a gallon. So Prohibition did not necessarily mean 
dry. 

The most glamorous result of the Eighteenth Amend- 
ment in our area was that a local promoter bought a very large 



houseboat, and equipped it with a bar, lounge, dining room, 
sleeping rooms, and a large casino. A floating hotel, with liquor 
and gambling, was always available. If the local citizenry got a 
little hostile at such goings on, the Mazel was just moved up or 
down river until the fuss died down. Since it could moor off 
shore, local authorities could have little if any jurisdiction over 
what went on there. 

During hunting season, when the town was flooded with 
rich Chicagoans who came by car and by train to enjoy the 
plentiful supply of ducks on good hunting grounds with many 
competent guides available, the floating hotel had its busiest 
days. Some of the would-be hunters found it more pleasant to 
just stay there and buy ducks to take home. Word got around 
that a number of the regulars at the Mazel were reported to be 
gangsters and mobsters who enjoyed their stays as a vacation 
from the pressures of Chicago life. 

Excitement, money flowing, more work for more people, 
and the element of danger-good times for Browning and 
Beardstown while the Mazel was in operation. 

But like many enterprises, it finally came to an end. The 
promoter, enticed by the thought of even bigger profits, took 
himself to Chicago where the real money was. So long as he 
played the fringes, things went O.K. But then he stepped into 
taking over a shipment of contraband which infringed on one of 
the "Big Boy's" territory. After a couple of days and nights 
hiding out in the middle of a lake, our man had seen more 
danger than he'd counted on and came home sadder and wiser. 
By then, the Mazel had been closed down and the stock-market 
crash of 1929 was imminent. The Roaring Twenties was coming 
to an end. 



SHINE RAID AT A BARN DANCE 

F. Mary Carrie 

The Time: 1923. The Place: The country and horse lot 
at Noah Sorrel's place, in the woods above East Fork Creek. I, 
sixteen-year-old Grace Sullens, was there to share in the barn 
dance with dozens of country folks. 

It was a Saturday night in July, and we were all ready 
to frolic. Except for hat collections for the neighbor-musicians, 
it was all free. Called ear players, these were whoever showed 
up with an instrument, fiddle, guitar, or five-string banjo-or 
even two sticks to beat time. 

The pay came to Noah, a poor scratchin' farmer, who sold 
moonshine whiskey to keep him and his kids a-goin. His "Pap," 
Ole Man Jake, lived with him. Raised in Ole Kentuck, he was 
a fine hand with the mash, people said. Good whiskey in 
Prohibition times. So, the free crowd poured in for fun and 
dancing and hid the more-money-to-spend town-people, slip- 
ping in for illegal booze. 

In a pink organdy ruffled skirt and black shiny pumps, 
I stood in a bunch of other floaty-skirted girls, while four couples 
to each set was arranged. Eight sets, each with its sing-song 
caller, were sorted into pairs, while the music boys whanged 
and tuned. Hay bales with blankets over them, under the lower 
eves, made seats for the watchers. Quilts behind these took care 
of the little nappers. Gas lanterns hung from the rafters. Hay 
covered the hay hole. The only way in and out was two farm 
ladders at the big loft door. 

Suddenly, the noisy clamor hushed and rhythm music 
started. The foot-tappin'hand-clappin' kind. We dancers began 
to sway and jig in the figures swung out by our various callers, 
all shook up in the fun. 

After an hour of this high-steppin' fast-swinging on this 
hot July night, everybody rested a spell, to wipe sweat and get 
our puffback. Myra Smith, an older out from town girl, grabbed 



my hot elbow. "Let's get a cool drink at the pump," she said, 
"Bucket in the barn is flat." So down the ladder we went out to 
the horse pump. 

There, surprised, I looked around. Tied horses with 
buggies stood all around. There were a few cars, no people. The 
quarter moon was low in the west. It made dim light in the dusty 
fog-like air. The haunting smell of the wald honeysuckle 
mingled with the horse lot dust. The taste of the pumped drink 
in the tin cup was good. The only sound was the Whippoorwill 
call down on the creek below us, and the Katydids sawing away 
in the trees. 

The tinkle of the barn started. We turned, but melting 
out of the dust suddenly, there was a man with a gun in a 
crooked arm. "Fast back up the ladders, Gals," he said. We 
needed no push. We, flew, one on each ladder, up the rungs. He 
followed. "Likely to be shootin'," he muttered. A strange man, 
he plunked down at the doorsill , rifle pointing out, his feet on the 
first rung of the ladder. 

Another strange man with a rifle appeared at the top of 
the other ladder. We were all as still as the barnyard. We 
huddled like sheep, all staring. "Keep fiddlein'," he gestured 
with the gun, "You all keep dancin', nobodys comin' and nobodys 
goin' out til told." 

We near ones could see a large badge shining on his 
suspender. We looked at each other and minded, stepping into 
our couple's sets. He set his feet on the ladder, gun pointing out. 
The music guys got going with a hard beat, Turkey-in-the- 
Straw stomper. The groups picked up the jiggin' rounds and 
away we went. But the bounce and firey steps had blown out. 
We were scared. This had to be a moonshine raid. Yells came 
from below. We all stopped and headed for the door. The man 
waved us back with his gun. Nope, it's safe in here. Bang! Bang! 
went two barrels of a shotgun. Noah's five hunting hounds 
squalled, just boo-hooing; then the whine of flying rifle bullets, 
several of them. 



We froze in our footprints. That was our neighbors, 
Noah, his teenage sons, Jim, Joe, and Tom, and ole Grandpap, 
all those bullets was flyin' at down there, and from the roar of 
the shotguns, was beingre turned. Shaking, I grabbed Dave, the 
closest one, in a near death hold. Everybody did. 

Wife and mother, Kate Sorrels, was seated on a bale 
nearby. She sat stiffly up, hand pinched white on her palm leaf 
fan, lips pressed to an invisible line, foot still tapping. I felt 
proud for Kate, but looked the other way. Her stabbed dark eyes 
throbbed, it hurt so. Time went slow amongst us in the bam. 

Outside, thank God, no more shootin'. Car doors banged, 
motors roared. Then, his sheriffs star flashing, came a man off 
the ladder. We huddled back. For us, HHwuz always bad news. 
'TVIis Sorrel," he looked us over, paralyzed our speech. Kate, tall 
and sharp-angled, stood taller and looked at him square straight. 
"Me, Sir?", no quaver in her chin. "Brace up. Mis Kate," he said 
to her. "Noah got a gut hit. He went fast to the Vernon hospital. 
Boy Jim, with a shoulder hit, got took too. Sorry, but Noah, he 
knew the law, been warned before." 

Starch gone, Kate crumpled. "He knowed, t'was the 
onliest way to git livin money." She started towards the door 
explainin', "With no crops t'was honest trade he figured. Good 
Kentucky shine he made. They alius were back to git more." 

No talking amongst us as we filed down the steps. Pearl 
and me stepped on the little iron steps, and got up in our buggy. 
Brother Clyde untied ole Buck from the lot post, and we settled 
on our knees to drive the four miles to our farm. 

Only ten-thirty. We clopped down the dusty road, 
unrolling a gray foggy ribbon behind, with the setting moon in 
the west, sparkling through. Saying nothing. Big sister. Pearl, 
said, "Don't be goin' out with Mirey. They claim she's a fast one." 
I laughed, "Sure is, she jumped into that loft 'fore I wuz half 
way." 

Noah and Jim recovered, but the law destroyed all his 
bootleg booze and mash-making equipment. That ended our 
barn dances there. 



A VISIT FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN 

Jean Courtney Huber 

My father and mother, William A. and Florence Hughes 
Courtney, had moved from New York to the Midwest in the 
1900s. In the '20s, they lived in a double house on 16th Avenue 
with their two daughters, Helen and Elizabeth. My birth was 
but a few short weeks away. In desperation to move his family 
into a bigger house, my father bought a home on 13th Street and 
6th Avenue, East Moline, in what my mother called "the middle 
of the prairie." In May of that year I was born. 

Mother hated being so far away from St. Anne Church, 
the activity of the town, and her friends, but living near one's 
work was important to my father's livelihood because we didn't 
have a car. 

My father worked at the John Deere Harvester Works. 
His uncle, J. J. Courtney, one of the early superintendents at 
Deere & Company, Moline, Illinois, had encouraged his four 
nephews, Tom, John, Dave, and Bill, to come to Moline where 
they could get jobs working for Deere. Three came and worked 
for Deere. Dave stayed in Chicago. 

Living close to work was important those days when it 
came to transportation. Near the corner on 6th Avenue, my 
father could walk to work across the prairie, along the railroad 
tracks, and in the backway to his office in a few minutes. 

As I grew older, I was allowed to take my father his 
lunch. I followed the patch through the prairie, calling to the 
meadow larks, picking buttercups, dark blue violets, a bunch of 
what the Angel girls called "snot flowers," and a dandelion or 
two. I'd hunt four-leaf clovers and find a rare jack-in-the-pulpit, 
making a wildflower bouquet for my father's desk. 

Mother would watch from our front porch as I bobbed 
through the prairie, my mop of bright red hair peeking through 
the long grasses. A brown rabbit would hop by or a garter snake 
would slither by touching my foot. I'd jump and end up stepping 



in sandburs. I'd bend over to dig out the sandbur and Mother 
would call to me. I'd yell "Sandburs." She knew my problem. 

I'd limp along the tracks, the Burlington I think, then I'd 
walk the cool rails, and skip the ties, counting or making up 
rhymes as I walked. The stones between the ties slowed me. I 
was fascinated by their glitter and filled my pockets with the 
shiny ones. 

At the factory door, I entered to a chorus of "Hey, Red, 
what color's your hair?" The workers stopped to pat me on the 
head or walk me to my father's office where I left his lunch sack. 

I loved going there, not just for the attention, but 
because my father and the workers showed me the machines. 
They would lift me up to see the dark oil pouring over moving 
machine parts or show me how a new tool worked. I knew about 
tool rooms before I ever had a doll. The clank of heavy metal and 
the ring of a clanging hammer were the "rock and roll" of those 
days for me. 

At night I was not a good sleeper so I got up and looked 
out the big window over my bed. In warm weather, I swung it 
open and looked south into the trees watching the mystical 
shadows made by the moon. 

I heard a boat whistle to the north, distant and haunt- 
ing. I knew a paddle wheeler was struggling against the 
current, heading up river. I'd run to the bathroom, swing open 
the window, and, stand on the toilet seat looking north. I covdd 
see the moonlight reflecting from the light-painted decks and 
the outline of the dark smoke from the boat's stack. I could sleep 
after it left, dreaming of its voyage. 

One day when I took my father his lunch, things seemed 
different. The men were sitting outside, their backs against the 
brick building, their greasy work caps turned backwards, their 
tired faces grim, their eyes turned downward. Their "Hey, 
Red's" were silent. Ifeltlonely, unloved. I hurried to my father's 
office, left his lunch, and lingered a bit hoping for an explana- 
tion. I got a kiss, but no answer. 



Iran mostof the way home. When I arrived in my yard, 
I found some white-painted criss-cross sticks that looked like 
they had been set afire. 

"Look what I found behind the big tree," I told my 
mother. 

"Did you tell your father about this?" she asked. 

"No, I just found them when I came home." 

My two older sisters saw me holding the sticks and were 
abuzz with whispers. Not a word was said to me about the 
sticks, not even at supper time. 

Bedtime came early that night. I couldn't sleep so I 
looked out my bedroom window. It was pitch dark out. When 
I heard voices outside, I went to the bathroom, climbed on the 
toilet seat, swinging the window open as I went. No one in sight. 
Then a deep blast of a boat whistle. The paddle wheel was 
coming, but I couldn't see the boat or the river's edge or the old 
man's shack. 

The churning of the paddle wheels and water reached 
me as the boat was almost directly north of me. I could see a fire 
on the banks of the river, almost hear it crackle in the night's 
stillness. 

I ran to wake my folks. My dad got dressed and left 
quickly. My sisters joined my Mom and headed outside. I 
stayed at my bathroom perch where I could see the most. 

Now a huge cross burned, not unlike the small white 
charred sticks I found in our yard. I was worried. My father was 
heading for this danger. 

The reflection from the fire lit up the river boat, its crew 
now waving burning torches to light the area, yelling toward the 
shack to warn the old man. 

Before my father returned, I heard a car come up the 
alley. I could see faint white shapes illuminated by our house 
lights. The occupants, hidden by white sheets, yelled names at 
my mother and sisters. "Dam Cat-licks! Get out!" They drove 
close to where my mother and sisters were standing, calling out 



36 



as they went. My mother, a five foot-one inch lady, stood her 
ground. She held her head high and never moved an inch nor 
replied to their taunts. 

I could hear footsteps as my father returned from the 
cross-burning. He was furious. But he was a quiet man. I knew 
he would settle things in the bright light of the day-in his own 
way. 

I was back in my bed wondering why anybody could hate 
someone for their religion. When he returned, my father told of 
a cross being burnt in the yard of the Polite family. One of their 
sons had worked for him. They lived just across 13th Street. 
He'd had enough, he said. It would stop. He wouldn't be 
intimidated, nor did either of my parents consider our neighbor- 
hood any one's in particular. 

Next day my mother handed me my father's lunch. 

"Is it ok for me to go?" I asked. I got a big smile and a 
"Yes." 

I followed the path through the prairie. I wasn't as 
confident as my mother. Would I now get catcalls because I was 
a Catholic or was there a prejudice against red hair? I wasn't 
sure. 

I entered the same factory door as always. 

"Hey, Red! What color's your hair? Where'd you get 
those green eyes? Did that temper come with your red hair?" I 
knew then my father had won. There'd be no more crosses 
burned in our neighborhood. 



A BABYSITTING INCIDENT IN BOOTLEGGING DAYS 

Irene Vander Vennet 

It was an exciting time for me, many years ago, when I 
received permission from my mom to babysit several blocks 
from my home. I often cared for the children across the street 
when their parents went to an early evening movie. But my 
parents felt I was too young to go anywhere far from home. This 
particular evening our neighbor called and asked if I might sit 
for a friend of theirs for about an hour. Mom never made snap 
decisions so she said she would think it over and return the call 
soon. 

She called me aside and told me of the request, asked if 
I felt I could handle the job responsibly. I assured and reassured 
her, and when I heard her make the call to tell them I could, I 
felt very grown up. 

Mr. Bea, my charge's father, came shortly before eight to 
drive me to his home. There I met Bobby, age 5, and Suzanne, 
age 7. Their mother told me they enjoyed listening to stories or 
liked someone to read to them. She said that they would be back 
in about an hour and she would see to the bedtime on their 
return. Mr. Bea picked up a large box and off they went. 

1 sat Bobby and Suzanne close by me on the sofa and, at 
their request, continued to read a book their mother had started 
to read to them the night before. I'll never forget the name of 
that hook-The Bobbsey Twins by the Deep Blue Sea. 

About fifteen minutes later, Bobby slipped off of the sofa 
and asked me to wait a minute as he had to go to the bathroom. 
Away he went. When I thought Bobby had been gone long 
enough to complete his mission, I thought I'd better investigate 
the delay. I went to the bathroom door and called: 

"Bobby, are you all right?" No answer. 

"Stay calm," I told myself, and called out again. Still no 
answer. I tried the door; it was locked. 

"Bobby, unlock the door," I said in my sweetest voice; 



"it's time for the treat your mom left, cookies and milk." 

"Just a minute" came a frightened little voice. Then 
came the sound of sloshing water. 

"Ah," I told myself, "typical child-so much fun to play in 
water." The lock turned, the door opened, and before me stood 
a naked, smelly little kid. He looked very white and like any 
little boy caught in the act. "What happened Bobby?" I asked 
him. Suzanne was right behind me and filling in the informa- 
tion in a loud voice. 

"You're going to get spanked when Daddy gets home" 
and continued on. "Dad makes special water in the bathtub he 
has to test for someone and we're not supposed to go near the tub 
when it's in there." 

Now Bobby added, "I only wanted to taaa " and no 

more words came out of his mouth . . . only the special water and 
most of his supper. Was it? Could it be? Itsmelledalotlike the 
alcohol that mom used to rub on the boys' sore muscles when 
they played ball. No matter, I had to help Bobby. I bathed him 
off (not in the bathtub), put on his pajamas and robe, and settled 
him once again beside me on the sofa and started to read. In no 
time, my little drunk was fast asleep. 

Five to nine a key turned in the front door and Mr. and 
Mrs. Bea walked into the room. 

"What a peaceful scene," said Mrs. Bea. "Bobby fast 
asleep and our Wide-Awake up and chatting as usual." Chat- 
ting she was, words tum-bling out like autumn's falling leaves. 

"Bobby was a bad, bad boy tonight-he got into the 
special water tub and got sick-he said he had to go to the 
bathroom and when he stayed too long, Fran went into to see if 
he was all right-he had locked the door but he did open it when 
she told him to-but he was all undressed and he smelled awful- 
and then-he THREW UP. . ." she fairly shouted. 

Mr. and Mrs. Bea stood like mute sentinels just staring 
at me and then at each other. Mr. Bea attempted to speak, but 
only a feeble "uh, ah, I, uh, I..." then nothing. I realized their 



embarrassment and came to their rescue. 

I picked up my coat and said, "Could you please take me 
home now: I have much Latin to translate before I go to bed." 
I know Mr. Bea was relieved and hurried both of us out the door. 

He talked and questioned me the entire ride home: "Did 
I like school? What subject did I like the best? How did I like 
Latin? (he never cared for it)," and on and on until we stopped 
at my home. 

Then he reached into his billfold and handed me a crisp 
dollar bill. (A dollar for an hour?) I told him my charge was 25(2 
an hour. 

"Well worth a dollar," he said, " and THANK YOU!" He 
saw me to the door and, as soon as I stepped inside, he hurried 
off of the porch and into his car. 

The family was gathered, as usual, in the living room. 
And when I held out my dollar bill, they all cried out: "Wow, a 
dollar an hour!" 

Then Mom asked: "How'd it go tonight, dear? Were the 
children good?" 

I took off my coat and related my evening at the Bea's 
home. As I was telling my story, I noticed the eye communica- 
tion that was going on between Mom and Dad, and it confirmed 
my earlier thought. Yes, I had cared for a child who had bathed 
in a bathtub of gin. 



THE TIME OUR CHICKENS GOT STONED 

Sidney Jeanne Seward 

By 1921, Prohibition was in full swing in Rock Island. 
The saloons on Second Avenue had all closed their doors. No 
longer did people on the way to the street car stops have to walk 
around drunken men lying on the sidewalks, in the gutters, or 



on benches in that green oasis of the downtown area, Spencer 
Square Park (now the site of the Rock Island Post Office). 

That year, too, is memorable for me as the time my 
father was raising Leghorn chickens as a hobby and new 
neighbors moved in next door. 

The Eighteenth Amendment was in effect. Drinking or 
selling alcoholic beverages was prohibited. Oh, there were 
people who circumvented the law and made their own booze- 
but not my parents' friends, of course! My folks had signed 
Temperance cards, as had most of their friends. By signing the 
cards, they took an oath not to drink alcoholic beverages. 

The people who made their own liquor were called 
"Moonshiners" and "Bootleggers." They used all kinds of dodges 
to escape the law. They built stills and hid them in the woods 
or in their cellars. One man I have heard about had a still 
hidden in the rushes near a creek. When the booze was ready, 
he bottled it and took it back to his home place where he buried 
it in his cornfield. The story goes that when his customers asked 
for liquor he'd say, "Oh, I think I can dig up something for you." 

My school was near a house where shades covered all the 
windows. Though no one seemed to live there, many men 
furtively knocked at the door, received something in a brown 
paper bag, and quietly went away. Rumor had it that a still was 
hidden in the house and the many visitors were buying bottles 
of whiskey. 

Early that summer, new tenants moved into the house 
next door to us. At first I was excited about their coming. They 
had three children and I had never had playmates in the 
neighborhood. It wasn't long until we all realized that there was 
something strange about these people. They seemed surly and 
unfriendly. Their language included words that I had never 
heard before and that I instinctively realized I shouldn't be 
hearing now. The parents yelled at the children a lot. After a 
few offers of friendship, my family limited their conversations 
to "good morning" or "nice day." 



I didn't really mind not having children to play with. 
There was a lot to keep me busy in my own backyard. 

These were the "good old days" when you could have 
farm animals in the city. Many people still had horses and it 
was not unusual for people in thickly populated areas to have, 
back of the house, a shed where a cow was kept. 

That summer, five hundred white Leghorn chickens 
dotted the green lawn in back of our house. When Dad appeared 
with the feed pan, they gathered around him clucking happily. 
I liked to hold the chickens and stroke their soft, white plumage. 
They would come to me and cluck to be taken up. All but one. 
I had to watch out for a big rooster who would stick his neck out, 
ruffle his feathers, spread his wings, letting the tips drag on the 
ground, and charge me, pecking at the backs of my legs and even 
jumping up to peck my bottom! 

Now these weren't just any old chickens. These were 
prize winning birds. Dad had raised them himself. Most of 
them had been hatched from very special eggs in an incubator 
in our basement. When the time came, Mother and Father 
would take me downstairs so that I could watch the tiny chicks 
peck their way out of the shell. It was such a struggle for them! 
I always felt that I wanted to help, but Dad told me that working 
to get out of the shell was what made each one strong enough to 
survive without that protective covering. 

When the chicks first emerged, they were wet and 
bedraggled, but soon they dried off and turned into charming, 
little, yellow balls of fluff. I was always allowed to very gently 
hold one of those tender bits of new life in my cupped hands. 

Dad watched his chickens carefully as they grew from 
chicks to pullets and cockerels and, finally, to mature hens and 
roosters. He chose the most perfect birds to go to poultry shows. 
I remember how happy he was when his entry won first place in 
its class. At one show, his rooster won best of the show and Dad 
received an ornate silver loving cup. 

One morning after my father had gone to work. Mother 



39 



and I looked out the window and saw the chickens all lying on 
their backs, little feet straight up in the air, yellow bills sagging 
open to show a sliver of pink tongue. Mother rushed to the 
phone to tell Dad that all the chickens appeared to be dead or 
dying. 

Dad hurried home, running up the steep 17th Street hill. 
By the time he reached the house, worried and out of breath, the 
chickens were beginning to revive. Combs drooping, they 
staggered around the yard. 

Dad investigated and found, just inside the fence, what 
remained of a pile of mash thrown there by our new neighbor 
who had been making whiskey. 

Apparently, our prized flock had all eaten the mash and 
then, like the inebriated men of pre-Prohibition days, had 
passed out. 

My teetotaling parents were the owners of five hundred 
drunk chickens! 



ROUTE 67 BECOMES A HARD ROAD 

Mary I. Brown 

During the 1920s, booze, legal or otherwise, was a 
stranger to our home, and it was years later before women in our 
family exercised their right to vote. Thus, neither of the 
constitutional amendments of the decade touched our lives. But 
I will tell you what did-the new hard-surfaced roads! 

Today's population has no idea of the inconveniences 
endured by people previous to the coming of cars and hard 
roads. I have a vague memory of the old putt-putt, pop-pop 
steam engine and grader occasionally used to make roads more 
passable. Cars were not many on the roads in summer. In 
winter they were put up on blocks in a shed, if available. People 



made their way into the villages on foot or by buggy or wagon, 
with mud sometimes hub or axle deep. They would continue by 
train when travel was necessary. This necessitated overnight 
plans. Sometimes there were individuals available, who hauled 
people and drayage from place to place for a fee. Updating those 
services must have been the stuff dreams were made of. The 
coming of oil and gravel on secondary roads was in the distant 
future. 

You can imagine the excitement when news came that 
plans were in the works for a hard road through our area. Len 
Small was responsible for the building of more hard-surfaced 
roads in Illinois than any other governor. 

Our section of road was really going to happen. That 
became the topic of conversation when people met. We lived 
north of Manchester, just off the existing main county route. 
Designated the Mississippi Valley Highway, it wended its way 
from Manchester, in eastern Scott County, to Murrayville, the 
neighboring village in southern Morgan County. The telephone 
poles along the route was banded in color-white, orange, and 
green-with M.V.H. painted (one letter on each band) in a 
slanting pattern. In following the railroad, as was planned, the 
new route-to-be left M.V.H. and would intersect it at several 
railroad crossings between Manchester and Murrayville. 

In due time, we heard of engineers and surveyors mov- 
ing into both villages. One such person was M. J. Benscoter who 
married a Murrayville woman and remained in the area, to 
later become head of Morgan County's road system. 

Road workmen secured room and board with towns- 
people. I recall a few places that had room and board available 
to the public. Individuals having space were happy to accommo- 
date ones wanting rooms. 

At the south end of our lane was where the hard road 
would come out of Manchester at an angle. It was learned there 
would be an underpass at the railroad track. A local man, Carol 
Brown, was hired to do work there. He worked with a team of 



horses and a hand-operated scraper, trying to eliminate prob- 
lems where an old spring (water) had erupted. Surveyors, with 
their equipment in hand, continued their work around him. 

Just up the track was where the country neighborhood 
kids crossed on their way to school. We were a wide-eyed bunch 
watching the interesting processes going on, on "our turf." 

Soon we began to see large earth-moving caterpillar 
machines making their cuts. Where needed, the crews with 
dump wagons and mules made fills and did leveling. When up 
to the surveyor's specifications of grade, that group moved on 
and set up a short distance away, to do the same thing at that 
location. 

Form setters moved in next. When the sections of 
reinforcing steel mesh were being put in place, we were so 
fascinated that we lingered too long at our crossing and had to 
run to avoid being tardy at school. That season ever-muddy 
boots and splattered coat-tails were with us when it rained. 

Model T dump trucks hauled in the mixed concrete in 
small batches. Our dad told us that it was loaded from a 
temporary way-station beside the railroad tracks on down the 
line. 

I do not recall the actual completion of our section. It 
must have come after the closing of school that year. 

In the fall when school opened, the pavement was there. 
Men were raking, leveling, and seeding the shoulders. One 
thing which is still done today was the straw put on to cover 
until the grass grew. 

This section of road was first designated Route 67 
(south). Not too many years later a new road was built to the 
east of Murrayville, going south. It became new 67 (south) and 
our route from the overpass bridge and the intersection then 
became 267 (alternate). 

The first ride I took on our new good road was destined 
to be in a procession for the funeral of a favorite aunt, Miss 



It was soon to be the road I traveled each day while I 
attended Murrayville High School for four years. 

We later believed that a mistake was made by the people 
who maneuvered the hard road route through the main streets 
of Manchester and Murrayville. In a few years, many cars 
appeared. Travel became so easy and common that people 
(being as we are) sped right on through to the neighboring cities 
of Jacksonville, Springfield, and Alton, to the south. Our local 
business places dwindled and only a few have survived. 



AUGUSTA'S TURKEY TROT 

Ralph Eaton 

My wife says that "Turkey Trot" sounds like a dance. 
Well, figuratively, the people of Augusta were dancing in their 
street that day-dancing on brand new concrete streets! 

But, permit me to back up just a bit, to explain why these 
people were so jubilant. I can recall, for instance, that the 
spring of 1928 was a very wet one! My family, consisting of my 
parents, my older brother, Wayne, and myself, lived approxi- 
mately four miles southeast of Augusta on what was, then, the 
main road from Augusta to Brooklyn. It was also known, 
earlier, as the old Waubonsie Trail. The road was neither paved 
nor gravelled, so any cars that ventured over it in the spring 
quite often wound up stuck, either in the ditch, or right in the 
middle of the road. It was not at all uncommon for my father to 
hitch up his team of horses to pull some brave traveler out of a 
mud hole. Wayne was in the sixth grade and I in the fourth 
during that muddy spring of 1928. We walked a mile to and 
from Highland School. We walked the fence rows as much as 
possible, but we couldn't avoid the sea of mud altogether. The 
mud would stick to our overshoes and become so heavy that we 



could hardly lift them! More than once, I've had mud rub from 
boot to pantleg and actually work its way on the inside of the 
pantlegs all the way up to the crotch! 

One evening that spring, when Wayne and I got home 
from school, our folks were not at home. Since it was so muddy, 
they had gone to Augusta with a team and wagon to deliver 
cream and eggs and buy groceries. They had expected to be 
home by the time Wayne and I arrived home from school. They 
rode a spring seat on the double side boarded wagon. Just as 
they reached the center of Augusta, which was also a sea of mud, 
something startled the horses! They bolted suddenly. My 
mother was thrown back into the wagon, leaving her shoes on 
the footboard on the front of the wagon. Dad was thrown off the 
wagon into the mud and the bolting horses pulled the rear wheel 
of the wagon right over his body at the rib cage. He was wearing 
a suede leather jacket and I can still vividly see that two-inch- 
wide track of the wheel across the back of his jacket when they 
finally arrived home after dark that night! Fortunately, some 
kind soul caught the horses and no one was injured but for a sore 
rib cage for a couple of days. 

Experiences such as these were rather commonplace 
before the days of paved streets and hard roads. So, when the 
streets of Augusta were paved for the first time between 
October 14th and the first week of November of 1928, the 
merchants and village trustees planned a gala celebration. 

The hard road west of Augusta, from West Point to 
Bowen to the west edge of Augusta, was all poured in 1927 by 
Peter Simons and Sons of Quincy, reaching the west edge on 
November 3, 1928. The CB&Q viaduct was not yet completed. 
Details had to be worked out. B. G. Swanson, the mayor, finally 
got them resolved the next year by putting up some of his 
personal funds. Ironically, Mayor Swanson was to be struck 
and killed by a CB&Q train at this same viaduct crossing 
sometime after its completion. 

I attended the gala celebration which was held on 



Saturday, November 24, 1928, known as the Turkey Trot. The 
weather was bright and crisj>- a beautiful day for late Novem- 
ber. Festivities were scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 
People came by train and car (the roads were drier then). Cars 
were not permitted to park in the immediate business district, 
but they seemed to be everywhere else to this nine year old! The 
crowd was estimated at between 2,500 to 3,000 people, which 
must have included just about everyone in the town of just over 
1,000 and the entire rural population for several miles around! 
It had been announced that turkeys, geese, ducks, guineas, and 
chickens would be donated by the merchants. Please keep in 
mind here that November, 1928, was during the days of eco- 
nomic depression, especially for farm folks. How were these 
fowl distributed-by drawing a number or a lottery? Not at all! 
They were tossed from the tops of the two story buildings to the 
excited crowds below! 

The turkeys, of course, were the choice prizes-and right 
at Thanksgiving time, too. There were three turkeys donated 
by the merchants that day. The first was to be tossed from the 
top of the F. M. King & Sons Department Store at the west end 
of the pavement. This store is now known to Augusta's present 
residents as the Red Fox Grocery. Down came turkey number 
one into a frenzied crowd to a terrible fate. Credited with the 
win was Kenneth "Joe" Lord who was then, I believe, a husky 
high school youth. But Joe didn't win without a scrap! Young 
boys piled on that poor turkey as football players after a pigskin! 
The turkey didn't last long! What Joe really came out vrith was 
a dead turkey minus two drumsticks and a wing! It wasn't a 
pretty sight! 

A few other fowl were tossed from various buildings with 
less severe results. Then, the second turkey was to be released- 
this one from near Pitney's store (now Pitney Park) on Center 
Street. But, some rules were laid down this time-this was to be 
a "Mother's Turkey." Only ladies were permitted to gather 
beneath the spot of release. And, it went as intended. This 



42 



turkey was caught by Mrs. Lloyd (Goldie) Belden of the Pulaski 
area. Her son, Harold, who still farms in the Augusta area, was 
a very small boy then. Some other fowl were released from that 
same location. Pekinese ducks can't fly very well, but I remem- 
ber one flying clear across the street trying to avoid the out- 
stretched hands beneath, but he never reached the ground! 

The third, and last, turkey of the day was released, as I 
recall, from above B. B. Grain's clothing store. This stood 
approximately where the State Bank of Augusta is today. This 
poor bird met the same general fate that the first turkey had. 
The Augusta Eagle identified the winner as "a big man-out of 
town." I'm afraid that, in fact, there were several "winners." 

In all, there were three turkeys, eighteen ducks, eleven 
guineas, five roosters, and several hens released from building 
tops that day. I remember one Rhode Island Red hen that really 
entertained the crowd. She was released from over Weinberg's 
Hardware. She was tossed out, but alighted on one of the CIPS 
highline wires (they are still there). She was, perhaps, fifteen 
feet out from the top of the building. So, someone got a long pole 
and, very carefully, poked her back side which they could just 
barely reach. But she wasn't about to come down into that mob 
of humanity! She clung to that wire and swung with it, bobbing 
her head up and down to maintain her balance. She entertained 
the crowd for probably fifteen minutes and many of us were 
hoping that, somehow, the chicken would win, for we would 
cheer her each time she was pushed for a wire swinging ride. 
But, finally, as she swung toward the building, a poke from the 
pole dislodged her, and she flew into the waiting grasp of 
someone below. 

The finale of the festivities was the "greased pig contest." 
For this event, a large human circle was formed approximately 
the width of the street, just east of the intersection. Contestants 
were to weigh a certain amount-as I recall, around 250 pounds 
or more. The idea was that it was really supposed to be for fat 
men. A ninety-pound shoat was thoroughly greased-I thought. 



then, with axle grease, but it may have been lard-and released 
into that circle. Whoever caught the pig got to keep it. It didn't 
last long. Some tall, raw boned man, who probably did meet the 
weight requirements, captured the pig without difficulty. I 
never did think that was fair-I wanted to see some of those fat 
fellows (yes, I could name some of them, but won't) wrestle with 
that pig! 

So, the festivities ended, and a new era had begun! The 
next summer, grading and paving east of Augusta, on Route 
101, began. The hard road didn't go past our place, but 
hundreds of dump trucks did, hauling sand, gravel, and cement 
to the mixer. Dust got six inches deep on that dirt road! Pouring 
of concrete started at the county line two miles east of Augusta 
on September 3, 1929, and went west to Augusta. The tenth 
annual Livestock Show was held that year on September 11,12, 
and 13th. I rode in our touring car with my mother on 
September 11th over that new hard road from which the 
protective straw had just been removed. What an exhilirating 
experience! 

Never again could such an event as Augusta's Turkey 
Trot take place. Nor should it! In this day and age, the Society 
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would have a field day 
in chastising those noble merchants and city fathers who were 
so delighted to finally see progress in their little town that they 
wanted to celebrate. They saw it as the dawning of a day when 
the growth of their community was assured. What a sad turn 
of events it has been that the very thing that they celebrated 
would facilitate the movement of people /row the community, 
rather than into it! 



43 



MY AIRPLANE RIDES IN THE 1920s 

Burdette Graham 

One nice sunny day in 1927 we saw a biplane land in our 
pasture, which at that time was almost one half mile long. The 
cows were off to one side, and the pilot had to land as he was 
almost out of gas. Of course, me being just one year out of high 
school, and my eight brothers and sisters were all younger then 
I, we all rushed to the plane to find out the trouble. 

We brought him to our gas tank and he took two five- 
gallon cans to the plane. I don't remember whether he paid for 
the gas or not, but he offered to take me for a ride, which I gladly 
accepted. He took off and fiew around over the farm a few times, 
then landed. While going along on the ground the prop picked 
up a piece of old fence wire and threw it into the wing. Only a 
small hole in the wing, and this did not seem to worry the pilot 
at all. Where the wire had hit the prop, a small notch about one 
inch long and one quarter deep and about six inches from the 
end of the prop was discovered. The pilot thought it might 
unbalance the prop, but he started it up and there seemed to be 
only a slight vibration-at least that was his comment. 

He took off and headed for Havana. In the news the next 
day we heard that a plane had made a forced landing near 
Havana because part of his prop had fallen off. We never heard 
anything more of this plane, but I was glad I took my ride before 
he hit the wire. 

Soon after this time my neighbor, Glenn Sayers, and a 
friend of his had a plane and were flying all over. Something 
happened to destroy this plane, either a crash landing or a wind 
storm. In order to rebuild it, they wanted me to join them as a 
partner to furnish the cash for repairs. For this they would 
teach me to fly. My main source of money was from my dad, for 
work I did on the farm. He thought it a bad idea, so I never 
learned to be a pilot. 

I did fly a few times with Roy Pearce, Macomb's pioneer 



aviator. He had his plane on his farm northeast of town, and he 
also flew from the airport just south of the turn toward Indus- 
try. I flew alone with him two times and had nice rides around 
the Macomb area. One Sunday afternoon. Scratch Trotter went 
with me for a ride with Roy Pearce. For some reason, Roy 
decided to show us how a plane could roll over and make a loop, 
dive a ways and then level out. He did a few of these stunts and 
then landed. When we got out of the plane, I was glad to be on 
the ground. Scratch looked as white as a sheet, and he could not 
walk without help. He was so sick that he could not eat the rest 
of the day-and maybe the next. 

That was my last airplane ride. After the stunt flying 
which made Scratch sick, I just did not care to fly anymore. 

Two years later, Roy Pearce also had his last plane ride. 
While taking off from that same field, he hit some trees and was 
killed. 

Now that I look back on them, I realize that my early 
experiences reveal how dangerous flying was in the Roaring 
Twenties. Perhaps that's why Lindbergh seemed like such a 
hero. 



ROARING SOFTLY: THE TWENTIES IN LEBANON 

Grace R. Welch 

In my town, the Twenties didn't roar; they whimpered, 
and we scarcely noticed. Lebanon was then and still is a 
community of less than 3,000 people, harboring a small college, 
McKendree. We read about bathtub gin and gang warfare, but 
most of us went quietly about our own business. Mine in those 
days was growing up and getting an education. 

By 1920, my father was ready to make a move from the 
busy mining town where he had started his medical practice in 



1908 to his old hometown where he could give me the advan- 
tages of an agricultural community and a good small college. 
One of my grandmothers had worried about the foreign element 
in Benld, but while we were there none of us had seen any 
violence or kidnapping. 

As the new decade rolled in, then, I found myself in the 
seventh grade in a new town where I knew only one girl who 
lived behind my grandmother's house . As we played together at 
recess in the seventh and eighth grades, I found a best friend 
who lived across the street from me, and, scattered through 
three grades, six more friends who would last a lifetime. 

As we moved into high school, the boys began to appear 
at our frequent Saturday meetings at someone's home. No 
agenda was ever planned; we simply enjoyed being together. It 
was not unusual for a parent or two to arrive for a straggler, but 
many times we walked home in pairs with no fear of being on 
streets alone after dark. 

Music was an important part of those days. Most of my 
friends sang, and sometimes I accompanied them on the piano. 
Often our Saturday evenings ended with a sing-a-long, indoors 
around the piano or outside in lawn chairs or swing. Irving 
Berlin's tunes were favorites, but we sang "Three O'Clock in the 
Morning" or "After I say I'm Sorry" or "I Wonder What's Become 
of Sally?" with equal abandon. We also knew many of the show 
tunes from the musicals we occasionally saw at the Municipal 
Opera in St. Louis, like "Desert Song." 

McKendree College had an Interscholastic Day every 
spring, a Saturday when athletes and "intellectuals" from area 
high schools competed. Solos, quartets, and declamations made 
up the literary events, with eliminations in the morning and a 
program at night featuring the top three in each category. 
"Asleep in the Deep" was often a winner for an aspiring basso 
who could show off his low notes. Carrie Jacobs Bond's senti- 
mental songs appealed to the girls, and Poe's "Telltale Heart" 
always appeared among the declamations. 



Clothes and hair in that period were often a reflection of 
the fads and fashions of the day. After all, we were only twenty- 
five miles from St. Louis where many of us shopped regularly, 
making the trip by street car. Alas, our tendency to shop in the 
same stores resulted once in three party dresses alike. My best 
friend and I had each shopped with her mother, but we came 
home one day with identical taffeta dresses, except that hers 
was yellow and mine was peach. Since we liked each other, it 
didn't matter. We had a shock, though, when another classmate 
turned up with the same "robe-de-style" in white for gradua- 
tion. 

Hem lines were going up and down during our high 
school days. Once when very long skirts were stylish. Mother 
bought me a coat which reached to my ankles. Before she got 
around to shortening it, I managed to slip out to a basketball 
game before she saw me. She saw me come in, though, and the 
next day she cut off the extra length. 

Long hair, in my case two long braids which I sometimes 
wound around my head, was cut by the local barber when bobs 
became the fad. He was a very slow, very gentle old man who 
moved with exasperating precision. When he ran the clippers 
down the back of my neck, I felt sure he was going right on down 
my spine. I didn't have a permanent until I finished college, but 
many of the college girls did. One whose hair was so bushy and 
thick that no one wanted to sit behind her at the movies had to 
put up with boys throwing chewing gum into her curly coiffure. 

The negroes, as we called them then, were old familiar 
families whose children went to the same school we did. But at 
the movies, they had to sit in a special section, down front and 
on one side only. None ever appeared in the downtown ice cream 
parlor or drug store. 

We knew of a schoolmate's older sister who came back 
home with a baby and no husband, and was promptly thrown 
out by her prim and proper parents. We heard, too, of people 
who drank too much, in spite of Prohibition, but we were 



45 



untouched by all of that. We didn't even dance, although there 
was a dance-hall in town. Our junior and senior proms were 
banquets served by the Home Economics class. A few of the boys 
smoked, but we girls frowned on that. I must admit, though, 
that a few of us tried smoking Cuban, medicated cigarettes, in 
the dark one night when we were ice-skating. And there was a 
time or two when a boy broke into the Home Ec. Lab when we 
were practicing a play to sample the vanilla. 

My best friend and I made fudge after school at least 
once a week, never worrying about the calories. My home 
project for cooking class was making desserts. Our hired girl 
and my mother stood around wringing their hands because I 
wouldn't let them help, but I turned out Brown Betty and baked 
custard and fresh oranges with coconut-which we ate. 

None of our crowd was overweight, perhaps because we 
walked everywhere. Although the school was eight or nine 
blocks away, we always came home for lunch, and sometimes 



went back in the evening for games or practice. One Halloween 
I walked to a party in the gymnasium, alone, because I didn't 
want anyone to see my costume. My dad had helped me design 
a pumpkin to wear-cloth spread over a wire frame which ended 
at my knees. The wire around my knees hampered walking 
more than I anticipated, but I couldn't have sat in a car even if 
one had been available. My dad always had evening office 
hours, and my mother didn't drive. 

We accepted all the events and inventions of that period 
as normal, only mildly exciting. I remember watching the 
course of Lindbergh's flight across the ocean in a St. Louis 
department store window, and sometimes we saw movies in one 
of the lavish palace-like houses in the city-Loew's State or the 
Ambassador-hummed Gershwin tunes, or listened to far-away 
programs on the radio. But in those growing-up years such 
things were no more exciting than our own basketball games, 
the Junior-Senior Banquet, and graduation. 




Ill ^ooks and Reading 



BOOKS AND READING 

Reading is no longer highly valued by the young. Tele- 
vision (including VCR movies) is more exciting than books, and 
most children, sooner or later, have almost unlimited access to 
it. No wonder teachers today lament the decline of avid book 
readers and the unwillingness of most students to do their 
reading assignments. 

This situation is very unfortunate. Watching TV is a 
passive activity. It does not require the mental engagement- 
the concentration, imagination, and applied intelligence-that 
reading does. And even with a satellite hookup that pulls in one 
hundred channels, TV offers only a small fraction of what is 
available in books. Much of what the world can teach can never 
be learned by the non-literate-those who refuse to read. 

Decades ago things were different. Reading offered a 
world of wonder and entertainment to the young, whose lives 
were otherwise limited to encounters with familiar people in 
well-known places. So, many children fed their curiosity, 
opened their minds, and increased their sensitivity to others 
through books. Thinking of them, one is reminded of the fine 
short poem by Emily Dickinson that conveys the spiritual 
impact of reading: 

He ate and drank the precious words, 

His spirit grew robust; 
He knew no more that he was poor. 

Nor that his frame was dust. 

He danced along the dingy ways, 
And his bequest of wings 

Was but a book. What liberty 
A loosened spirit brings! 



The memoirs by Alice Krauser, Nelle Shadwell, and 
Ruth Gash Taylor attest to the important influence that books 
can have on someone's life. All three of them have traveled far 
in the pages of books, and they also view reading as an impor- 
tant thread of continuity that connects their childhood with 
their later years. 

The various pleasures of reading are presented in sev- 
eral of these memoirs. For example, Wilmogene Stanfield loved 
fiction — even more than movies-because, as she says, "as I 
read, I was living every movement and thought with every 
character." For her, the magic of empathetic identification with 
others made reading endlessly fascinating. In contrast, Audrey 
Bohannon has always liked "a well-spun tale," although much 
of her reading has also been a quest for knowledge. Clarice 
Stafford Harris has enjoyed "the enchanted world" of books 
since the third grade, and she also reminds us that where you 
read can be a memorable part of your reading experience. 

Other kinds of reading also had a big impact on young- 
sters years ago. One of the memoirs is devoted to pulp maga- 
zines, those now-vanished purveyors of exotic adventure. Rich- 
ard Thorn recalls the role they played in his development as a 
reader. Likewise, Phyllis T. Fenton remembers the Sunday 
comics, which are still around but do not fascinate today's 
youngsters as much as today's adults who have read them since 
they were young. 

Perhaps the richest evocation of the world of reading 
decades ago is Marie Freesmeyer's account of the books, maga- 
zines, and newspapers that filled her life as a child. And she also 
recalls a once-common activity that perhaps did more than 
anything else to stimulate an interest in books-reading aloud. 
That was also an important kind of shared experience for her 
family, as it was for many others. 

But the most touching memoir in this section is surely 
Stella Hutchings' account of a man who was denied access to the 
fascinating world that the authors here have so enjoyed. Her 



father, Frank Howard, was uneducated and illiterate, but he 
raised a family that not only received diplomas but knew the 
importance of reading and learning. That is more than many 
literate parents in our own time have managed to accomplish. 

John E. Hallwas 



BOOKS! THEY'VE ENHANCED MY LIFE 

Alice Krauser 

I don't know when I learned to read, but I know it was 
before I started to school. In my early memories reading was 
something one did like eating and sleeping, and I have no 
recollection of anyone teaching me how to do it. 

There were always books in our home, and I often saw 
my father with a book in his hand in the evenings when farm 
work was done or on Sundays or during stormy weather when 
outdoor work was impossible. 

When I started to school at Hickory Grove, northwest of 
Macomb, I remember we were taught the sounds of the letters, 
and this was called p/zon(cs. It seemed so unnecessary to learn 
the sounds for I already knew the words, but I went along with 
the idea because I loved the first grade teacher, Beulah Graves, 
a beautiful, gracious woman. 

When I was in the lower grades, sometimes I wanted to 
read books that had bigger words and nicer pictures than my 
little books, so when I could manage to get an upper grade book, 
I would read it, and if someone seemed to be watching me, I 
would pretend I was only looking at the pictures. I was afraid 
the "big kids" might laugh at me for thinking I could read their 
books. The library at Hickory Grove was a bookcase, and 
through the grade school years, I read all the books in it even 
though I didn't always understand what I was reading. 

I went to high school at St. Mary Academy, a girls' 
boarding school at Nauvoo. I remember one of the incentives to 
work hard was that if one's grades were high enough one didn't 
have to take the semester exams and could go to the library. It 
was wonderful to be able to read anything I wished for hours at 
a time. 

My early interest in reading led to a lifetime of wonder- 
ful experiences with books. Some of them I shall never forget. 
History did not seem interesting to me until I read The Tree of 



Liberty by Elizabeth Page. This novel of colonial times gave me 
such a vivid picture of the problems and turmoil of that era that 
I still think of that story when I see countries of the Third World 
struggling to govern themselves. The Journals of the Lewis and 
Clark Expedition also fascinated me. In my mind, I went along 
on that marvelous expedition, seeing our country before it was 
settled. 

I gained an understanding of the Indian viewpoint in 
conflicts with the white men and an appreciation of the charac- 
ter of their leaders from a book, Bury My Heart at Wounded 
Knee by Dee Brown. When I read Wallace Stegner's books, The 
Angle of Repose, The Spectator Bird, and Crossing to Safety, I 
lived the excitement, joys, frustrations, and heartbreaks of his 
grandparents and gained an appreciation of what it had meant 
to be part of the development of the West. 

Scientific research sounded important but dull to me 
until I came across Curious Naturalists by Niko Tinbergen. 
Reading it allowed me to share the difficult, painstaking, yet 
thrilling experiences of scientists as they added to the world's 
knowledge. The books by Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki, Fatu- 
Hiva, The Ra Expeditions, opened to me the world of the oceans- 
with their myriad forms of life-through the descriptions of his 
voyages, which sought to establish how the earliest people of the 
Old World came to the Americas. While reading Richard E. 
Byrd's book. Alone, I realized the courage needed to overcome 
the risks and difficulties of exploration as he added to the 
world's knowledge in describing the winter he spent alone in 
Antarctica. 

Insight into the dark side of life came to me when I read 
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. This book made me 
aware of the horrors of imprisonment and the strength of the 
human spirit. 

One summer I went to Panama on a "banana" boat to 
visit friends living in the Canal Zone. This trip opened a new 
world to me, but I felt I had had only a glimpse of it. When I 



returned, I read all the books our public library had on that 
area. Panama by David Howarth gave me the story of the 
Spanish and their lust for the riches of the New World. This 
book put life into the small remaining part of the Spanish Trail, 
which I had seen. This trail across the isthmus had been used 
to transfer by muleback the pearls of the South Sea Islands and 
the treasures of the Incas to the Spanish galleons which waited 
on the Atlantic side. The Path Between the Seas, an account of 
the creation of the Panama Canal by David McCullough, made 
my trip through the canal an even more exciting experience 
than it already was. All of this has given me an interest in and 
a sympathy for the people of Central and South America as they 
struggle with the problems that plague them. 

In much the same way, after a trip to Africa, I turned to 
books in order to travel once more that interesting continent, 
which I would, most likely, never again have a chance to visit. 
Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen, and a more recent book, Shamba 
Letu, by Kate Wenner, gave me an understanding of the indig- 
enous people that I had seen on my trip but had had no 
opportunity to mingle with. Joy Adamson's book. Born Free, 
and the books that followed it gave me an understanding of the 
way of life of lions. I could imagine that the pride of lions we saw 
one day near the road, resting and ignoring our van, could have 
been descendants of Elsa. And the elephants-I again experi- 
enced the thrill of seeing them when I read Among the El- 
ephants by Ian and Orea Douglas-Hamilton. 

My interest in and knowledge of the outdoors and my 
desire to experience it firsthand have been enhanced perhaps 
more by the books of Virginia Eifert than by any others. Her 
Journeys in Green Places, which I have read and reread, always 
leaves me enchanted with the natural world as she describes its 
changing aspects, its beautiful wildflowers, and its minute 
insect and plant life. 

Birds are my special interest, and I have enjoyed many 
books about them. Sandhill cranes will always be special to me 



after reading So^c/y by Dayton 0. Hyde. He tells of a crane that 
lived on his farm and thought she was a member of his family. 
And I realized that one can see and enjoy birds almost anywhere 
when I read Birding From A Tractor Seat by Charles Flugum. 
Through the years, books have brought me pleasure, 
relaxation, inspiration, and knowledge. They have enhanced 
my life. 



TRAVELS IN THE REALMS OF GOLD 

Nelle E. Shadwell 

Books were not plentiful in the small village of 
Funkhouser, Illinois, during my school years. From 1924 
through 1931, our school library consisted of perhaps sixty or 
seventy books, which I read over and over. My developing love 
of reading caused me some problems, however. 

I remember particularly a bright spring day during fifth 
or sixth grade. I had finished my lessons and asked permission 
to read a library book until time for spelling class to begin. I 
chose a book called Arlo, A Little Swiss Boy. I was deeply 
engrossed in Arlo's adventures when I became conscious of 
laughter from my classmates. I looked up to see everyone 
looking at me. The teacher was giving us our spelling words. I 
slammed the book and grabbed my paper to write my words, but 
the teacher had no compassion for an avid reader. "No, Nelle," 
she said firmly. "You go on and read your book. You can take 
a zero for today's lesson." My heart was broken, since I always 
made a hundred in spelling. 

That wasn't the only time I got in trouble over my 
intense love of books. I had checked out Charles Dickens' Z)ai;icf 
Copperfield on one occasion. I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I 
returned it, a classmate was standing by the teacher's desk and 



asked if it was a good book. I heartily recommended it, so she 
asked the teacher if she could check it out next. The teacher said 
she could and my classmate walked off with the book. Two 
weeks later, the teacher came to me and said, "Nelle, you have 
David Copperfield out and it is overdue." I said, "Oh, no. Ellen 
checked it out the day I brought it back." The teacher said, "Did 
you, Ellen?" To my surprise, my friend replied, "No, I didn't." 
The teacher told me I would either produce the book or I would 
pay for it. 

My mother, Amanda Stewart, was not one to be pushed 
around. When I told her what the teacher said, she responded, 
"I am not paying for the book and that's that! " For a couple of 
weeks, I had a rough time at school. I was miserable. Then one 
day, to my surprise, Ellen walked in with the book. "My mother 
had laid this up on top of a cabinet so my little brother couldn't 
reach it," she explained. "We just found it last night." I never 
heard a word of apology from the teacher for the grief she caused 
me over her own poor record-keeping. 

The final and most devastating experience with this 
teacher came when my classmates and I were helping to clean 
the book cabinet. We were all discussing good books. I said, 
"Some day I want to have a library in my home." The teacher 
broke out in laughter. "Yow with a library?" I was crushed. 

This incident formed a permanent scar. Many years 
later, after I was married and had a family, I saw this woman 
in a store in nearby Effingham and could not resist the desire for 
revenge for my childhood pain. I walked up to her and identified 
myself. "Do you remember once I told you I was going to have 
a library in my home and you laughed at me?" She replied that 
she did remember the incident. I said, "Well, I now have over 
a thousand books." I walked away feeling very proud of myself 
for my determination and for confronting this demon from my 
past. 

The encounter was many years ago. I now have over two 
thousand books and I can see things more clearly in retrospect. 



What I should have done is to thank her, for without her 
opposition and scorn, my determination to keep reading good 
books and to collect them in my home might not have happened. 

My love of books has extended to my four daughters. 
One of them wrote a story once, in which she said, "My mother 
always read us good books. I think she used to diaper us with 
one hand and hold David Copperfield in the other." Yes, I read 
David Copperfield to them-unabridged! I even read the Bible 
(King James version!) to them in its entirety. I wondered, as I 
read, why didn't I remember, "Do unto others as you would have 
them do unto you?" instead of seeking revenge? 

In his poem, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," 
John Keats said, "Much have I traveled in the realms of gold, 
/ And many goodly states and kingdoms seen." In a lifetime of 
reading poetry, classic novels, biographies, and travel books, I 
can truly say with him, "Much have I traveled in the realms of 
gold." But it all started with a small girl who loved to read in the 
one-room Funkhouser schoolhouse many years ago. 



I NEVER MET A BOOK I DIDN'T LIKE 

Ruth Gash Taylor 

As soon as I knew what words were, I was a reader. My 
first book was Four Little Cottontails at Play by Laura Rountree 
Smith. It had a bright orange oilcloth cover with a dark green 
border and red lettering. All these years later I remember the 
bad little rabbit, Snubby Nose, who "cried, and he screamed, 
and he howled" when things didn't go right. 

Santa always brought me a book. Early gifts were A 
Girl's Book of Treasures and Arabian Nights, which I loved. I 
also cried my way through Black Beauty. 

Soon, my appetite for reading was insatiable, and it was 



54 



a long time between Christmases. So, I turned to my father's 
books. He favored Zane Grey, Harold Bell Wright, Jack London, 
and John Fox, Jr. Thus, I read Riders of the Purple Sage, The 
Rainbow Trail, Call of the Canyon, Shepherd of the Hills, The 
Calling of Dan Matthews, The Sea-Wolf White Fang, and The 
Trail of the Lonesome Pine. 

Charles Scofield of nearby Carthage had written two 
books, so Dad bought them and I read hoth-Altar Stairs and A 
Subtle Adversary. The latter book had a story line about the 
evils of alcohol. (The Rev. Mr. Scofield had married my par- 
ents.) 

A special favorite was In the Days of St. Clair, in which 
Hester Lovelace, a rich plantation owner, bribed Indians to 
massacre settlers and carry off her rival, a poor girl. The hero, 
aided by his faithful slave and a Shawnee named Silverheels, 
eventually rescued his sweetheart, and they lived happily ever 
after. At the time, I simply thought it was an exciting story. 
Now, I realize that I absorbed a lot of history as I read about 
Arthur St. Clair's governorship of the Northwest Territory in 
the late eighteenth century. 

One book led to a Christmas present, when I was nine, 
that has never been equaled for me. I had read Captives Three 
by James A. Braden. The story dealt with Clay and Nell Castle 
and Fred Fravel, three youngsters who had to fend for them- 
selves during an Indian uprising. The book ended with a 
sentence about a copper-colored arm stretching from the bank 
to halt the canoe in which the children hoped to quit the scene 
of their misfortunes. The reader was then instructed to read 
about the continuing adventures of the three in a sequel. The 
Cabin in the Clearing. 

I was inconsolable. We did not own the sequel. So, I 
walked three and one-half miles from our farm to Warsaw to ask 
for it at the library. "No," said Miss Bell. "I don't have the book. 
Besides, Indian stories are not suitable reading for a girl." 

The Great Depression was upon us. I knew Mother, by 



then a widow, could not afford to buy the book. But Christmas 
came and The Cabin in the Clearing was under the tree. I was 
thrilled. 

Years later. Mother told me she had ordered the book at 
one of the Warsaw drug stores, expecting it to cost no more than 
30(Z or 35c. When the book came, the cost was unheard of-60c. 
After much scrabbling in her pocketbook-as purses were then 
called-Mother could locate only 49c. She was acutely embar- 
rassed. Then Mr. Brinkman looked at the book again, and said, 
"Bless my soul! I read that 4 as a 6. The price is 40c." Blessings 
on him, indeed. 

Every Saturday afternoon I walked to town to check out 
as many books as Miss Bell would let me have, usually no more 
than three. She introduced me to Gene Stratton-Porter's 
works, and I reveled in Freckles, A Girl of the Limber lost. Keeper 
of the Bees, and Laddie. 

When I was in high school, a classmate lent me St. Elmo. 
I was fascinated by the Byronic hero, reclaimed from sin by the 
heroine's cautious affection and ardent prayers. The highlight 
of my teens was visiting Alabama and seeing the Mobile home 
of St. Elmo's author, Augusta J. Evans. 

I also devoured Charles Lindbergh's We, Richard 
Halliburton's travel books, and Osa Johnson's accounts of 
experiences she and her husband, Martin, had with animals in 
Africa. 

In high school, too, a girl, the daughter of a minister, said 
she would give me a Bible if I would promise to read a chapter 
every day until I was through both testaments. I kept my 
promise. 

Thomas Gregg's huge History of Hancock County held 
me enthralled. Since then, no one has ever been able to convince 
me that novels are more exciting than history. 

I read Thaddeus of Warsaw because I was told the book 
inspired the residents of Spunky Point to change the town's 
name to the more genteel-sounding one of Warsaw. And, of 



course, it was a point of honor to be familiar with John Hay's 
Pike County Ballads. He was Warsaw's most illustrious citizen. 

As a child, I often heard Mother recite Will Carleton's 
"Over the Hills to the Poor House." It haunted me. When I was 
earning my own money, I bought Carleton's Farm Ballads and 
City Ballads. 

When my piano teacher and her mother were getting rid 
of unwanted possessions, they gave us several boxes of books. It 
was like giving me the key to Fort Knox. One of the books was 
Shacklett by G. Walter Barr of Keokuk. Warsaw was a thread 
in the story. I was quite impressed because the volume was 
autographed. It was the first autographed book I had ever seen. 

Most people probably think the wheel was man's most 
important invention. I like to believe that the momentum for 
civilization got under way with the development of books. I 
know I've loved every word that I have read, from Louisa May 
Alcott to Zechariah. 



FICTION, MY FIRST LOVE 

Wilmogene Stanfield 

In 1930 when I was seven, our second grade class from 
Oak Street School visited the Taylorville library. It was hard to 
believe there could be so many books in the world. Shelves 
reached away above our heads, and every shelf was filled with 
books, big ones, thin ones, red, brown, and green ones. 

Each of us was allowed to check out a book. I can't 
remember the title or the author of mine, but I was certainly 
impressed by the story. It was about an old lady who owned 

a small grocery store. The lady and a little girl just my age were 
good friends. One day the lady, who was waiting for her 
grandson, a sailor, to come home for a visit, had to leave for a 



short time. The girl said she would mind the store for her. While 
she was alone, a young man in a sailor suit came in and tried to 
rob the store. 

I have forgotten how the brave little girl, just my age, 
prevented the robbery, but when it was all over, she was asked 
how she knew the robber wasn't the lady's grandson. She said 
it was because his eyes were brown, and she knew all sailors had 
blue eyes. 

Living in central Illinois and never having seen a sailor 
in uniform, nor even a ship for that matter, I truly believed all 
sailors had blue eyes. The book had said so, and I thought 
anything printed in a book was true. 

Years later, during World War II, of course I saw sailors 
on the college campus, in stores, and in church. I discovered 
they did not all have blue eyes. I had also learned the difference 
between fact and fiction. 

Once when I was at home for Christmas break, I met a 
young man who had lived across the street from me when we 
were children. We had remained friends through high school. 
Neither of us had plans for that evening, so we went together to 
a dance. 

He had dark brown eyes. When I told him about my 
childhood mistake, he laughed a lot and gave me a button from 
his Annapolis uniform. 

The button reappears from time to time when I am 
rearranging keepsakes and jewelry . I always smile, remember- 
ing my first library book and a sailor with brown eyes. 

My mother did not like for me to get books from the 
library because they might have germs. I did not check out a 
second book for several years, but I had many books of my own 
during my childhood. They were the best part of my life. 

For years my friend Ruth and I gave each other a new 
Bobbsey Twins book every Christmas and for our birthdays. We 
read them before exchanging them as gifts. If someone in our 
family gave us new ones, we lent them to each other. Between 



us, we kept up with all the twins' activities, and by the time we 
outgrew them, we must have read the entire series, probably 
fifty volumes. 

For very young readers there were Cricket and 
Honeybunch stories. I loved them. As I grew, I lived through 
many adventures with Grace_Harlowe and Nancy Drew. I 
borrowed my brother's adventure books, The Black Arrow , Tom 
Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and the Hardy Boys. 

I read and reread Heidi and the Alcott books, laughing 
and crying with Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, An Old 
Fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, and my favorite. 
Jack and Jill. I lived every adventure and every sorrow in every 
book. My parents could never understand why I laughed aloud 
while reading. I cried, too, but I never let anyone see me. 

In high school I fell in love with George Gordon, Lord 
Byron. Didn't every girl? I even read a thick book about him. 
While I preferred stories to poetry, I thought "To Julia" must be 
the loveliest love poem ever written, even better than 
Shakespeare's sonnets. 

To get credit for second year high school Latin, we were 
required to read two classics-in English, thank goodness. I read 
The Vestal Virgins and Quo Vadis. A few years later I saw Quo 
Vadis come to life as a movie and was deeply moved. Usually I 
enjoyed reading a book more than seeing it as a movie because, 
as I read, I was living every movement and thought with every 
character, and I sensed things differently than they appeared 
on the screen. 

Mother signed up for me to receive books by mail when 
I was in high school. It wasn't the popular Book-of-the-Month 
Club, but was a club that provided me with a book every month 
for several years. 

They were my first really grown-up books: Kings Row, 
The Sun Is My Undoing, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Razor's 
Edge, and many more. My favorite World War II story was 
Assignment in Brittany. 



When Gone With the Wind was published, there was a 
waiting list at the library. I didn't get to read it before the movie 
came to Taylorville. After seeing the movie, I didn't bother to 
read the book. I would have missed the thrill of becoming part 
of the drama as I read. 

Then came college and a whole new perspective. No 
longer could I become the characters and laugh and cry as they 
did. I was required to analyze them and write papers about 
them, telling why the author chose to develop a personality in 
a particular way and how that choice made the story a classic. 
It was an interesting procedure, but I did not feel comfortable 
nor was I ever at home with it. 

After graduation in 1945, fiction was only an infrequent, 
friendly visitor. After a stint as a news reporter, there followed 
marriage, a family, and twenty-four years of teaching second 
and third grade children to read and write stories. 

In 1984, upon retirement, the first thing I did was to read 
twenty books of fiction, many of them old friends. They made 
me realize why fiction had been my first love so many years ago. 



THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF A BOOKWORM 

Clarice Stafford Harris 

I discovered the world of books when in the third grade 
at the North Central Grade School in Dixon, Illinois. My 
teacher. Miss Diviney, instilled in me a joy and love for books 
that has been with me these sixty years. 

Each day, if we were well behaved, she would lay aside 
her work to say these magic words, "Class, you have been very 
good today. Put aside your things and I will read more of the 
Bobbsey Twins to you." For half an hour, or until the dismissal 
bell rang, we enjoyed the exciting tales of those mischievous 



twins. It took a month or more to finish one book but only one 
or two times of "No reading today" to shape up our class, for we 
were all intrigued with the antics of the twins. 

Our home was in the Assembly Park, once a religious 
youth camp. However, it was seldom used for this purpose at 
this time. All of the cabins were sold and privately owned. Our 
place had once been the locker and club house for a golf course. 
We had a very large yard with an empty field adjoining it. At 
the far end of the field grew an old pine tree with wide and 
spreading branches. It was a delightful place to grow up in, and 
I lived there until I was eighteen and married. 

In the summer when it was warm and nice outside, I did 
my reading lolling on a blanket under a shade tree or in a nest 
hollowed among the tall grasses in the center of the field. There 
I hid from the world, my nose buried in a book or magazine 
provided by a neighbor. 

I also had another quiet spot for reading during the 
cooler and the rainy seasons. This was in the back seat of our 
old touring car, if Dad was not using it. It had side curtains and 
roomy pockets in the doors where I could store my reading 
material. No one ever disturbed my books, but I lost several 
when Dad traded the car in for another one. I also lost a good 
reading place. 

In my freshman year of high school I discovered the 
library, and what a bountiful discovery it was for a book-hungry 
young girl. If only I had applied myself as ardently to the books 
provided for my education. In the library, I discovered the books 
of John Fox, Jr., and I was so impressed with his Trail of the 
Lonesome Pine that I changed my quiet reading places for the 
sticky branches of the old pine tree. Pithy as it was, it had a 
heavenly aroma, and the soft whisper of the breeze through its 
branches was a lovely and soothing combination for pleasant 
reading. 

Just as in that book, my pine tree had a niche where a 
lover's note could be hidden. At my age I had not yet discovered 



boys, so I did not have a lover. I did not want one, nor did I have 
the wiles to get one to have a tryst with. Therefore, no lover's 
notes were ever exchanged. 

In winter when my quiet places were cold and barren, 
after school and chores, I curled up with my book on the long 
window seat in our living room, oblivious to the bleak world 
outside my window or to the disturbance of my younger siblings, 
totally engrossed in an enchanted world until daylight faded 
and I could no longer see. I did no reading by the light of the 
lamp at night, for I needed glasses and there was none to be had 
until much later. I did have to do homework in the evening 
when Dad could, very reluctantly, help. I am afraid my school 
work suffered because of the dim lighting. 

My world as a confirmed bookworm has been super 
wonderful. Today I collect many of the books that I read in my 
tender years. They contain so many lovely memories. 



THE JOY OF READING 

Audrey Bohannon 

Reading has been one of my favorite pastimes since the 
age of five, when I first discovered Dick, Jane, and Spot and 
their exciting adventures. I loved it! Whereupon I then 
embarked on an insatiable reading quest to learn all I could find 
out about anything and everything. It has given me much 
pleasure along the way. 

Of course, it goes back a bit farther than that. The stork 
by whom I was delivered did me a stupendous favor by depos- 
iting me in the bosom of a family of readers. Along with mother's 
milk, I was nurtured on tales of Mother Goose and tasted the 
magic ofthe fairy tales ofthe Brothers Grimm. The latter, along 
with a slim volume of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's 



58 



Garden of Verses, are two of my treasured mementos of child- 
hood. Later I adventured with the Bobbsey Twins, followed 
Alice into Wonderland, and I improved my outdoor skills with 
the Campfire Girls. Being a tomboy and ever a lover of 
mysteries, I also enjoyed the intrepid escapades of the Hardy 
Boys, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. 

I volunteered to work in the library in both grade school 
and high school because it gave me first access to new addi- 
tions — naturally I read all the books that were of interest to me 
as soon as possible. They were not very large libraries in a one- 
room grade school and small-town high school! But oh! when 
I got to college and worked in the library there , I was in Seventh 
Heaven. I was always happy to shelf- read (a task others often 
tried to avoid) and, believe me, it took me quite a while! 

In high school most of my allowance was spent on 
paperback Pocketbooks which were just beginning to be pub- 
lished and could be purchased for twenty-five cents. Thus 
began my collecting of favorite authors through the years, an 
inexpensive way of obtaining all of their books. At one time or 
another I have been a member of every book club that has come 
down the pike; however, the current price of hardback books has 
put an end to unlimited purchases. 

My reading tastes are very eclectic. I have read the Bible 
through in its entirety several times, not even skipping the 
"begats"; and one winter when I had pneumonia and measles in 
rapid succession, I read the entire set of the Book of Knowledge 
encyclopedias. I have even been found in the midst of meal 
preparation absorbedly perusing the label on a can of creamed 
com or keeping a load of wash waiting while I studied the 
ingredients. This being so, after half a century plus, my library 
fills one large room and spills over into all the other rooms of my 
house, and my mind runneth over! My books range over every 
conceivable subject, from leather-bound classics to reference 
books on "How To." I suppose that much of my library would be 
classified as escape literature-murder mysteries (which I adore 



with a purple passion), spy stories, gothic romances, and his- 
torical novels. I also have an extensive section on parapsychol- 
ogy, psychology, Atlantis, Flying Saucers, Lost Continents, and 
other esoteric subjects. 

I have many favorite authors: the list would be almost 
endless. Some of the ones I read over and over again are Helen 
Maclnnes, John J. McDonald, Shakespeare, Jane Roberts, Carl 
Sandburg, Agatha Christie, Alexander Dumas, Leslie Ford, 
Rex Stout, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Robert Heinlein. 
The truth is, I like any author who can grab my attention with 
a well-spun tale and take me out of my ordinary world into his 
or her world. I am constitutionally unable to lay down such a 
book until I've finished reading it. Fortunately, I can now save 
these books until I have ample time to savor them. I turn off the 
telephone, muffle the doorbell, lock the door, and curl up in my 
favorite old armchair (which has shaped itself to my body after 
years of use) and totally immerse myself in that book! 

Few things in life have been as satisfactory and given me 
as much pleasure as books. Reading is a happening, an 
experience, where one's mind is touched by another and one 
feels as though one has met an old and valued friend. Now that 
I am not as physically active as I once was, I read and re-read 
my favorites; and each time I discover something I have missed 
in former readings. I have also acquired a plethora of knowl- 
edge which I'll probably never have a practical use for, but what 
matters to me is the knowing. And the acquiring was pure joy. 

That is why I read. 



PULP MAGAZINES 

Richard Thorn 

I wish that I could say that great literature ignited some 
latent interest that resulted in a lifetime love affair with 
reading, books, and libraries. My earliest authors included L. 
Frank Baum and his delightful Oz adventures, Edgar Burrough's 
Tarzan and Pellucidar series, Horatio Alger's stories of success 
through hard work and pluck, anything about King Arthur and 
his brave knights, Richard Halliburton's exotic travels and 
Deep River Jim's trail book. 

However, after paying homage to these authors I must 
confess that my first reading inspiration was not from any book 
at all, but rather several pulp magazines which, after being 
discarded by my father, were claimed by me. 

The rise and fall of the pulp's popularity took place 
during my lifetime, which began in 1922. The dimensions of the 
pulp magazines were the same, the size of a National Geo- 
graphic. But the pages were of thick gray paper, similar but of 
poorer quality than newsprint, which is why they were referred 
to as pulp magazines. The paper's texture was so rough that I 
don't recall ever seeing them in outhouses where catalogs and 
newsprint routinely made their last useful contribution. Fru- 
gality discouraged the use of toilet tissue and the lack of pipes 
in a pit toilet made the use of bulky paper feasible if not 
comfortable. The cover was in color and featured a scene filled 
with action. The pictures inside were black and white illustra- 
tions. 

Each magazine specialized in a specific interest, such as 
railroading, detective stories, western adventures, and fantasy. 
My dad's two favorite pulps were Argosy And Adventure , which 
contained stories of general adventure. After he was through 
with the magazines I colored the black and white illustrations 
with my crayons and sometimes with water paints. 

As I learned to read, my interest in coloring decreased 



and I started to read the stories. They held me spellbound. 
Peter the Brazen, who made Indiana Jones look like a sissy, 
roamed the world on missions fraught with enormous dangers 
and enemies that he routinely overcame. 

I don't remember too much romance but once in a while 
some lady was saved from a fate worse than death. My dad, 
when I inquired about this, told me that I would have to be older 
to understand this condition. My mother didn't even answer me 
and said, "Henry, Richie shouldn't be reading your trashy 
magazines." Since I didn't have any sisters to advise me, I asked 
the girl that I walked with to school about the fate that was 
worse than death. She didn't know either but said the worst 
thing she could think of was being barefoot in a room full of 
snakes and those June bugs that crack when you step on them. 

My favorite stories were written by George Surdez and 
were about the French Foreign Legion. The stories concerned 
heroic exploits in the North African desert, where legionnaires 
fought Bedouin, Tuareg, and Rif tribesmen. 

Those legionnaires were really tough, and I knew all 
about them from these stories. The officers were the top 
graduates of the military school at St. Cyr. The legionnaires 
were recruited from countries all over the world. The soldiers 
wore hobnailed boots without socks. I made my cap resemble 
the Legion kepi with neckpiece by sticking a white handkerchief 
over the back of my head under the cap. 

The Bedouin tribesmen were very savage. In one story, 
the tribesmen silently spread opium paste inside the soldiers' 
shoes while they slept. The next day during the march the drug 
was absorbed through the skin, causing hallucinations. The 
soldiers wandered into the desert to die of thirst. This type of 
mischief was common from the wily tribesmen. 

That story got me interested in opium, which my mother 
didn't appreciate as many of her poppy blooms were ruined in 
my unsuccessful research. 

Legionnaires knew how to have a good time when they 



60 



returned to the fort after being in the field fighting. They would 
go to the bistro and drink cognac, play cards, gamble, and visit 
with the ladies that hung out there. I wanted to do that too. 

The years passed and I moved on to other reading. The 
pulp magazines faded out with the rental books, three days for 
a dime. Argosy and Adventure later appeared briefly in a new 
but disappointing version, with glossy paper and slick photos, 
that didn't capture the loyal audience of old. 

I wish I could see a few old pulps, but apparently they 
have vanished. The local librarian had never heard of them 
when I tried to find some specific facts that were vague in my 
memory. I feel like Rip Van Winkle: I seem to be the only person 
who remembers that wonderful era of the pulp magazines. 



THE COMICS IN THE 1920s 

Phyllis T. Fenton 



Kayo were street-wise kids who sulked about school and slipped 
through the chinks of parental discipline-like no kid on our 
block could ever get away with. 

We also loved the freedom and impudence of Harold 
Teen, the callow youth in the raccoon coat who loafed at the 
corner drug store and whistled at a girl named Lillums. 

Our favorite comic strip character was Skeezix, the 
infant found on a doorstep on Valentine's Day in 1922 by a 
bachelor named Uncle Walt, who then raised him. Skeezix grew 
through the years as we did, and today, if he's still around, he's 
a grandfather, while Orphan Annie is still twelve years old. 

Orphan Annie and Harold Teen soon became WGN 
radio series during the five to six o'clock children's time slot. 
But we always liked them better in the newspaper, where we 
could see them. The comics were fascinating for us back in the 
twenties-long before television gave us the world of the pack- 
aged image. 



In the middle 1920s my juvenile reading included the 
comics. The Chicago Tribune comics reflected the insular 
security of the Midwest middle class and were really humorous, 
at least to children. The daily Tribune printed four picture 
strips in black and white, but on Sunday the "funnies" were in 
spectacular color on a full page. 

As we sprawled on the living room floor to read them, we 
giggled and chuckled with the Gumps, a family of no chins but 
some odd sounding names-Chester, Min, Andy, baby Goliath, 
and Uncle Bim. Then we held our breath while we read Orphan 
Annie, the clifThanger. Annie had large ovals for eyes and a dog 
named Sandy. She also had a penchant forgetting into personal 
hazards, at which time roving Daddy Warbucks miraculously 
appeared to snatch her from peril. 

Comic strip pranksters like Smitty, Perry Winkle, and 



READING FOR PLEASURE AND INFORMATION 

Marie Freesmeyer 

Reading for pleasure and for information were both very 
important to most farm families during the early decades of this 
century. At that time much emphasis was placed on oral 
reading, both at school and at home. Daily Bible reading was 
common in many homes. This was enhanced by one's ability to 
read well orally and to comprehend when reading silently. Both 
skills were stressed because reading was our chief way of 
gaining knowledge and, also, our greatest pleasure. 

Having had parents who had taught school and four 
older brothers, I inherited many textbooks at all reading levels. 
We were blessed by having many books in our home, both fact 



and fiction. Most ofthese books had been Christmas gifts. They 
ranged all the way from Mother Goose Rhymes to Captain 
Cook's Voyages. Some of the ones that were most common in the 
households of that era were Aesop's Fables, Hans Christian 
Andersen's Fairy Tales, Pilgrim's Progress, Uncle Tom's Cabin, 
and Children's Bible Stories. Many homes also had biographies 
of great men such as Lincoln, Washington, Columbus, DeSoto, 
Longfellow, Emerson, Roosevelt, McKinley, and Bryan. 

I read and often reread most of the books mentioned 
above, but the ones I remember best are Black Beauty, Little 
People of Japan, Eskimo Children, and Aunt Martha's 
Cornercupboard (a book filled with informative articles about 
the many things founds in our cupboard-salt, pepper, sugar, 
cinnamon, tea, coffee, etc.). The textbooks were mostly readers. 
They ranged from the McGuffey Readers, which my parents 
used, to Barnes Readers, which were still in use at that time. 
McGuffey Readers included stories which stressed moral val- 
ues and principles of character to be either emulated or shunned. 
Along with Ray's Arithmetic and McGuffey Readers, we had 
readers which were informative in many areas. One ofthese 
that I still own is called Instructive Reader, or A Course in 
Reading in Natural History, Science, and Literature. Another, 
which my eldest brother, Avery Wilson, used when he attended 
Hardin School in 1905, is A Progressive Course in Reading, Fifth 
Book. These elementary readers were not a collection of 
entertaining stories, but, as their names signify, they were 
filled with information. Early reading textbooks instructed the 
student in science, history, geography, and literature. Most of 
them also gave specific instructions on oral reading, dealing 
with such topics as correct pronunciation, pitch, tone, inflec- 
tion, and emphasis. The fifth grade reader named above would 
make an adequate text for a course in reading in our present- 
day secondary schools. Having read several of these early 
textbooks, I can understand how my father, W. S. Wilson, who 
taught from such books, was able to read aloud to us on winter 



evenings, and hold our rapt attention for hours. 

My appetite for reading was whetted by my parents 
reading to me and by the great amount of oral reading that I 
heard from others. My own endeavors began with my personal 
magazine called Little Folks. This magazine contained a two- 
page story which had all the concrete nouns pictured. With the 
aid of the many pictures, I was able to supply the missing words 
and "read" the story for myself. 

School was always interesting and challenging for me 
because of the many books there-which were few by today's 
standards. The Primary Reader contained many poems which 
were read and reread until they were memorized. Later we 
studied many great poets and their works. Probably most of 
those of my generation can still quote some of the poetry that 
they learned from those early readers. 

Magazines were very important to farm families during 
the early part of the century. Very few of these families 
subscribed to the more sophisticated magazines, such as The 
Ladies' Home Journal. Some that we took and were common in 
farm households were Capper's Farmer, Farm and Fireside, 
Prairie Farmer, Comfort, and Youth's Companion. The first 
three were strictly farm magazines, but they contained some- 
thing of interest to each member of the family. My father read 
them from cover to cover, even the advertising. 

Comfort was one of several inexpensive women's maga- 
zines. It contained recipes, stories, household hints, patterns, 
and such like. I liked to visit in homes where they subscribed 
to The Ladies' Home Journal. That magazine had a page of 
paper dolls with a complete wardrobe. Given this page and 
some scissors, I could entertain myself for hours while the 
adults visited. Once I had acquired these paper dolls and pasted 
them on cardboard, I spent my happy hours dressing them in 
various costumes by bending the small tabs left at the shoul- 
ders. 

The Youth's Companion, as the name implies, was a 



magazine for teenagers and young adults. There were only a 
few such magazines published, and I'm sure many young people 
in Illinois looked forward to receivingthis interesting periodical 
as much as we did. It contained many interesting stories, one 
of which was a serial that always ended at the most exciting 
point and left us eagerly awaiting the next issue. The stories in 
this magazine were the ones our father read aloud to us as we 
sat around the dining table on cold winter evenings. 

All Calhoun County citizens were familiar with the 
Mississippi River and the steamboats that regularly plied the 
river. Therefore, the writings of Mark Twain were among the 
favorites there. There was no public library where such books 
could be borrowed, so most of them were purchased by some 
family in the neighborhood and loaned to others. When we 
procured a new book, either by purchase or by borrowing, 
several of us vied for it. The argument was sometimes settled 
by having Papa read it aloud after supper. 

Another book which I recall hearing my father read was 
Slow Train Through Arkansas. This book was hilarious. Papa 
would have to stop frequently and have a good laugh before he 
was able to continue reading. One passage stayed with me 
through the years, probably because it was repeated many 
times by some member of the family when one of our vintage 
cars stalled on a hill or in mud or snow. When this "Slow train" 
stalled, the conductor would call out, "First-class passengers 
keep your seats; second-class passengers get out and walk; 
third-class passengers get out and push." 

During the era before television or radio, the daily paper 
was of utmost importance. It was the only medium for obtaining 
national and international news. My father subscribed to the 
St. Louis daily paper. The Globe Democrat, if I recall correctly. 
He was intensely interested in political issues and world events, 
so he thoroughly read, enjoyed, and usually discussed the 
articles which he read. 

For local news most families in the county subscribed to 



the Calhoun Herald which was published weekly at Hardin, the 
county seat. Each village and many communities had a corre- 
spondent who contributed news items to be included in this 
paper. It has continued to the present time very much as it was 
during the early part of the century. Other county papers have 
been published for short periods of time. In 1915 C. C. Campbell 
and A. B. Greathouse began publishing the Calhoun News, also 
a weekly paper that is still fulfilling its original purpose. 

With the abundance of books, magazines, and newspa- 
pers readily available today, more reading is being done, but 
probably few are reading as much as many people once did. I 
don't believe the blessing of having good reading material is 
appreciated as much as it once was. Family reading hours have 
given way to hours of watching television. Our old classics are 
being neglected for modern types of literature. I'm sure my 
peers will agree that the poems written by the earlier poets, 
which rhymed and could be memorized so easily, are far supe- 
rior to the modern free verse. I regret that the lives of our 
grandchildren have not been enriched by the wonderful litera- 
ture that we enjoyed years ago. 



MY FAMILY'S STRUGGLE FOR EDUCATION 

Stella Howard Hatchings 

As I look around my home at shelves overflowing with 
the books that I treasure and at tables stacked with far more 
magazines than I can get read before the next issues arrive, I 
pause to wonder why reading is so important to me. 

For the answer, I look back nearly a century. My parents 
grew up in Scott and Greene counties of Illinois, in poor but 
respected homes. Both, by today's standards, were underprivi- 
leged as children. My dad, Frank Howard, was reared by his 



63 



mother and step father, Mary and Oscar Walls. Both Mary and 
Oscar could read and write, but didn't consider that a blessing. 
Therefore, they did not send Mary's three sons, Chris, Oatis, 
and Frank, to school. They lived in the Lovelace School district 
in Greene County, but Mary thought that the mile-and-a-half 
walk to school was just too much for the boys. If there was a law 
enforcing parents to send children to school, Mary and Bub 
Walls ignored it. The three Howard boys grew up illiterate. In 
later years they found it hard to forgive their parents. 

My mother was bom in the northern part of Greene 
County in 1885. Her parents were Irvin and Serilda Law. The 
baby was named Hattie Agnes. Serilda died when little Hattie 
was two. Grandfather Law kept his family together. His four 
older daughters cared for Hattie and kept house for their father 
and brother William. As she reached school age, Hattie at- 
tended school first in Glasgow and later in the one-room country 
school west of Glasgow. It was called the Zion's Neck school. By 
the time she had finished fourth grade, Hattie had to assume 
most of the care of housekeeping. Her brother William had 
married, gotten divorced, and then moved home with his small 
daughter, Edith. So Hattie had to give up school to care for 
Edith and the home. During her fifteenth summer, Hattie had 
the entire care of the household and her little niece. Then her 
beloved father became ill and needed care, too. He died in the 
early fall. 

Five months past her sixteenth birthday, Hattie Law 
and Frank Howard were married. They began housekeeping in 
a tenant house near Winchester on a farm where Frank worked. 
They kept Edith with them. Later, after I was bom, my dad took 
a farm job for James Lovelace, north west of Patterson, Greene 
County. Uncle Jim (as we always called him) and his daughter, 
Melissa, lived in a very neat home across the road from the 
Lovelace School. We lived in a small house a fourth-mile down 
in the wooded pasture. It was the only home I remember having 
until I was a teenager. It was a wonderful place to grow up close 



to nature. 

When I was only five and a half years old I started school; 
I was a very bashful child. Except for my sister, Gladys, and 
brother, George, I'd had no one to play with except once in 
awhile when a neighbor child might come for an afternoon visit. 
I was scared to go, but Mother and Dad had talked so much 
about the wonders of school that I knew I was supposed to like 
it, so I did. But the most wonderful thing about it was the books. 
I'd never seen so many. Miss Lora Hahn was a lovely, gracious 
teacher. Right from the start she let me handle those lovely 
books and look at the pictures. I think she must have been a 
good teacher for primary kids. Very soon I was able to read and 
there were many little books for beginning readers. 

A new child was added to our family every two years, and 
we all loved school and books. We would carry our books home, 
and Mother would read them aloud in the evenings. Dad 
listened intently with us. I remember that he especially enjoyed 
the series of Deerfoot stories. Deerfoot was a young Indian 
brave who befriended white pioneer boys and helped them in 
their projects. 

People in the community thought that, of course, the 
Howard kids would be through with school when they finished 
the eighth grade at Lovelace, and be available for work in homes 
or on farms. But no, Frank Howard was determined that his 
children would have all the education he could get for them. 
Many laughed at the idea of a poor man with a large family even 
thinking of such a thing, but Dad wanted us all to get high school 
diplomas. By the time for school to start again. Dad had 
arranged for me to live in Patterson in the home of his cousin, 
William Ford. I was to work for my board, share a room with the 
Ford daughter, Ruth, and go to high school. Miss Edith Hyatt 
was the principal. 

I didn't fit in well with the students. I was very home- 
sick, and I was very self-conscious about my home-made dresses 
and having no money for treats, as ray classmates had. But 



64 



there again were many books, so when I wasn't studying I was 
reading. Never once did I even think of dropping out of school. 

Then Dad rented forty acres of good farm ground in the 
Illinois River bottom, borrowed money for a good team of young 
horses, and moved to a small pasture place on the road that 
separated Greene and Scott counties. We were still in Greene 
County and Lovelace district. My brothers and sisters now had 
to walk one and a half miles through wooded pastures to school. 
We were five miles over dirt roads to Patterson and the high 
school. 

For my second year of high school I went to Blue Mound 
in Macon County and worked for my board with a cousin on 
Mother's side of the family. Again, I was very homesick and 
went home for the summer. Dad bought an over-sized buggy 
and a very old pony for me to drive to Patterson for my third year 
of high school in Patterson. It was only a three-year high school, 
so even though I graduated, I wanted to return to Blue Mound 
for my last year. Dad helped me do that too. Before graduating, 
I had passed the examination for a teacher's certificate, and had 
been hired to teach in a one-room country school in Christian 
County, just a mile from Blue Mound. My salary was a fabulous 
one hundred dollars for an eight-month term. 

Dad was very proud of me, and of my brothers and 
sisters. Gladys finished her high school in Blue Mound and 
began teaching in Macon County. George rode horseback to 
Patterson, graduated, then got his fourth year in White Hall. 
Earl graduated from White Hall, too. Soon after, he was killed 
in a hunting accident. 

Glenn a finished two years of high school in Patterson 
when our parents moved again. This time to western Greene 
County, almost on the bank of the Illinois River, directly across 
from the village of Pearl in Pike County. Dad and Mom could 
see no way to get both Glenna and Carl enrolled in a high school. 
He owned no car and there were too many miles to get over. 
There was a good school in Pearl, but the river was between. 



Glenna would be a junior and Carl a freshman. They had to get 
across that river. He borrowed a row-boat from the man who 
operated the ferry. "Peelie" Jones also taught them how to row, 
how to ride the waves, and to always have a target on the 
opposite bank to head for, and to always keep in sight of the 
railroad bridge. They had many exciting times and a few 
dangerous experiences during that winter. 

The next year the family moved back to a farm near 
Alsey. Carl graduated from Alsey and went to Winchester for 
his final year of high school. Glenna worked for her room and 
board in White Hall. A new law had been passed and Glenna 
could not get a teacher's certificate by writing an examination 
as her sisters had done. She borrowed money and enrolled in 
the state university in Normal. After two years of skimping and 
cooking her own meals, she had earned a college degree and 
gotten a license to teach. 

At last Dad was ready to give up trying to farm small 
farms with horses in the age of cars and tractors. He sold out 
and bought a small home in Drake, midway between Patterson 
and White Hall. Mom and Dad were content. Of course, their 
lives had been filled with hard work and problems, and they had 
buried three sons, Loren as a baby and both George and Earl as 
young married men. But two remaining sons and three daugh- 
ters were married and rearing families. All were well respected 
citizens. And all had completed high school, except Buell. He 
had earned the respect of the community when he quit school at 
the time that the levy broke and flooded the river bottom farms. 
He wanted to help our parents because they had lost their entire 
crop. He never returned to school, but he had a useful life. 

Dad had always felt humiliated because he was illiter- 
ate. But to me, he and Mom had every right to be very proud of 
their achievement. They are both gone now, but they left a love 
for reading and books, and a desire for diplomas and college 
degrees, that made an enormous difference in the lives of their 
children. 




IV UnforgettahleTeople 



UNFORGETTABLE PEOPLE 

It is fascinating to consider humankind. Philosophers, 
theologians, and writers focus on all aspects of men and women 
that captivate the imagination and interest. One thing is clear: 
Every person has the capability of accomplishing great good 
and shameful evil. Thought by humanists to be basically good 
and by conservative theologians to be basically evil, human 
beings remain an enigma. Thus, the argument rages, as it has 
done since the beginning of recorded history: What is the nature 
of humankind? 

And this query leads to a myriad of other questions. 
What is admirable in people? What is base? What makes them 
special? What is there to love? What is there to hate? What 
makes people unforgettable? 

The questions grow and proliferate. It is to these 
questions and others that the writers of the memoirs addressed 
themselves in presenting and analyzing their favorite and 
unforgettable people. The resulting verbal portraits present 
many fine, admirable individuals. Indeed, an affirmation of 
people, those they present, is apparent. It is comforting to read 
of such worthy persons and their capacity for love and right 
action. It is also captivating to note the richness of their 
characters. In like manner, it is quite revealing to note the 
integrity and character of those who wrote the memoirs. 

To whom do the ten writers turn their attention? For all 
but one, relatives are the most interesting characters they have 
known: three wrote about their grandfathers, one about her 
mother, two about their fathers, and two about their aunts. 

In writing of her grandfather, Dorothy Van Meter re- 
calls her loved one's hard work and love. Eleanor Bussell 
provides an indepth characterization of her grandmother, while 
Ruth Rogers speaks fondly of her remarkable grandfather, who 
was, in fact, like a father to her. 

In a touching, exquisite memoir, Martha K. Graham 



recalls her grandfather, an extraordinary man who loved his 
family dearly and who was a person of great quality. Joe Adams' 
father was a new American who was a master craftsman as well 
as a good and decent man. 

Doris Nash wrote an unforgettable tribute to her mother, 
in which she said: 

For over sixty years, I have copied this extraordi- 
naryn lady in many ways, and I have used her 
methods for raising my own children. I live many 
miles from her, but she lightens my heart each 
time I drive to Grout Street, enter the small 
house, and see her happy welcoming smile. 

Eva Watson and Effie Campbell wrote tributes to their 
aunts. Eva shares how her Aunt Mary built her self-confidence, 
and Effie told of an aunt ■mth an "undaunted spirit" who was a 
perfectionist in all things. 

Ruth Taylor tells of a woman who was not lovable and 
who put up with no foolishness whatsoever. Included is the 
intriguing tale of her murder and the eventual solution to the 
crime. Betty Hardwick shares the life of a fine, noble lady of 
courage, Helen McClay, whose response to tragedy is summed 
up this way: 

Helen's sorrow was deep but her faith in her God 
kept her going, and, as always, she was every inch 
a lady. Helen McClay's spirit was never broken, 
and she never gave up or became embittered. 

Included in these memoirs are compelling character 
studies of ten people. Nine of them were wonderful, loving 
people; one was not-but even she demonstrated an indomitable 
will. In these portraits, there is much that is admirable. Such 
people offer models for a nation sadly in need of them. 



Alfred J. Lindsey 



C. H. KING OF ROSEVILLE 

Martha K. Graham 

For many years my father C. H. King (Herb King, as 
everyone called him) was a blacksmith in Roseville. To be a 
blacksmith was to know everyone in town and in the county 
around for miles. 

On my way home from grade school, I often stopped at 
his shop to watch him at work. The smell of horses and leather, 
the heat of the forge where he fired horseshoes and other metals 
until they were red hot, the clang of the heavy hammer on the 
anvil where he shaped horseshoes to the horses' hooves, the acid 
smell of red hot metal being plunged by heavy tongs into cooling 
water — all these are as clear to me as if they were happening 
this minute. 

Any kind of horse might be in the shop — farm work 
horses, ponies, driving horses, riding horses, even race horses 
(one called Minor Heir was owned by someone in Monmouth). 

My grandfather, Perry McCaw, a carpenter, was always 
there building cabinets and other things made of wood to a 
customer's order. There were always men waiting around and 
talking. They took no notice of me. 

A wink from my father was the only way I knew that he 
knew I was there. He didn't stop work. On the knee of his 
leather apron he took up the horse's foot, pared down the hoof, 
made a horseshoe to fit the horse's hoof, and finally nailed it on 
while the horse stood quite still. 

While work was going on I could look around at things, 
if I stayed out of the way. Sawhorses stood around loaded with 
waiting saddles and leather harness straps. From the walls 
and the rafters hung hundreds of horseshoes like so many bats 
hanging in their cave. The walls were hung with cabinets whose 
drawers and doors held nails, nuts, bolts, hammers, saws, files, 
chisels, and all kinds of metal equipment. On a shelf, a Seth 
Thomas clock chimed the hour, its mahogany case blistered by 



the heat. Under the shelf was displayed a collection of fancy, 
whimsically designed horseshoes that my father had made for 
fun. Captain's chairs stood around for the customers' conve- 
nience, with a spittoon or two alongside. 

No matter how often my grandfather wielded the push- 
broom, the floor was always oily and dirty with sawdust strewn 
with metal filings and woodshavings, horseshoe nails, and 
other things that caught a child's notice. I would stir up the 
sawdust, collecting horseshoe nails for my friends and me to 
take to the railroad tracks for flattening when the frequent 
trains went through. Those nails with their thick tops made 
fine miniature swords and scissors. 

It was always very hot in the shop, no matter what the 
weather outside, so my father always wore a sleeveless under- 
shirt leaving his muscular arms bare. Seeing him, I was always 
reminded of "The Village Blacksmith," which we had memo- 
rized in school. "The smith, a mighty man was he." Indeed, I 
was proud of such a father. 

Sometimes farmers brought in plows for him to sharpen, 
and other machinery to be repaired. One awful day, a blade 
slipped as he was sharpening it and cut his leg to the bone. I was 
not there to see it. 

One ghastly night my father's shop, a frame building, 
burned to the ground. His only consolation was that no lives 
were lost. He immediately rebuilt on the same spot. That 
concrete block building still stands and has served Roseville in 
several capacities since its beginning as a blacksmith shop. 

Much as my father loved horses, he fell in love with the 
new automobiles when they took the country by storm. Gifted 
in the understanding, the working, and the repairing of ma- 
chines, he could fix anything, and soon he was doubling as an 
automobile mechanic. He was aware that the automobile would 
inevitably make his work with horses obsolete, yet he owned 
one of the first automobiles in Roseville, a St. Louis, and later 
a Rambler. Spoofing the unreliability of the early automobile 



70 



engines, there was a popular song of the day called "Get Out and 
Get Under." More than once my father "got out and got under" 
when he took the family out for a joy ride. He kept a kit of 
wrenches and repairs handy for just such emergencies. 

Competition from several new Roseville garages made 
my father decide on another kind of business — plumbing. He 
knew that he would have to pass a stiff examination which 
involved mathematics and the practical application of certain 
plumbing skills. He had been able to acquire only a fourth- 
grade education before his father had kept him out of school to 
do a man's work on their farm, so he was quite concerned about 
the examination. 

Many a night we two sat at the round dining table, I with 
my homework and he with his correspondence course on plumb- 
ing. Together we figured out the mysteries of 3.1416 (pi) and 
what uses plumbers could make of it. 

My father regularly sent in his correspondence assign- 
ments, and when he had successfully completed the course, a 
Mr. Entrikan of Monmouth, a Master Plumber, checked him out 
on the practical skills of the plumbing business. How proud we 
were of his success when he received his Master Plumber 
License. He framed it and hung it in his place of business. ( I 
still have that framed certificate with its gold seal of approval, 
and it is a pleasure just to look at it.) 

At that time, plumbing was not the lucrative business 
that it is today, so after several years as a plumber he cast about 
for something better. 

It happened that the home-owned Roseville Telephone 
Company needed a manager who could understand the intrica- 
cies of a telephone switchboard and do a lineman's work as well. 
The Board of Directors knew that my father could fix anything, 
so they hired him. Once more the dining table was piled with 
books to study, this time without benefit of a correspondence 
course. 

My mother, good at figures, helped with the office 
bookkeeping. She prepared our noon meal before she left for 



work each morning, and left it to cook slowly in an electric All- 
Day-Cooker, a new gadget that my father had brought home. 
She enjoyed the company of the several telephone operators, 
among whom were Goldie Reed, Ethel Mink, Millie Hoffnagle, 
and Inez Watson. 

Two parents working, unusual at that time, was frowned 
on in certain circles. My mother had to drop out of some social 
activities. Her working hours did not coincide with meeting 
times of some organizations. But the King family was happy, 
and prospering. 

Suddenly, the Great Depression descended. The Roseville 
Telephone Company, in order to survive, had to merge with 
other small companies. My father's services had to be dispensed 
with, and my mother's, too. 

From that time on, for the rest of my father's life, and of 
the lives of those of his generation, everything was all "down- 
hill." He worked at whatever he could find to do, and set up a 
repair shop at home. Often his customers could not pay. He 
kept a strict account of his income and his expenses in a small 
notebook. (I still have this little book. It is a heartbreaking 
testament of one family man's struggle to survive in the Depres- 
sion years.) 

My father's household grew from five to ten, as it became 
necessary to take in relatives who could no longer adequately 
support themselves. He lost the house we lived in, remodeled 
another, and lost that. Finally, he rented a large old house wdth 
room enough for his dependents. The only breadwinner besides 
himself was my Aunt Millie McCaw, who continued to work at 
cut wages in Bennett's Dry Goods Store, which had been sold to 
other owners, and who took in sewing. She made all our clothes, 
turned my father's shirt collars, and patched and mended. My 
father planted a big garden, as always, and my mother, as 
always, "put up" the surplus. The ten of us did not even come 
close to starving. Neither did the tramps (who must have had 
our house marked) who ate many a well-filled plate of food as 
they sat on our back porch steps. 



My father's relief and joy knew no bounds when he 
finally found a job as a garage mechanic, working in his old 
blacksmith shop. When his employer put in plow sharpening 
and other such services to farmers, once more he had use for his 
blacksmithing skills. Things seemed at last to be looking up, 
and he was glad to work long, steady hours. 

But things for my father had come full circle. One 
extremely hot summer day, hard work in the overpowering heat 
of the shop was too much for him. Carleton Gossett of Roseville 
came into the shop that day and found him sitting there 
helpless, unable even to speak, and knew that he had had a 
stroke. My father was aware of this last tragedy that had 
befallen him. No one knew how long he had been sitting there 
waiting for help to come, nor what his thoughts must have been. 

My father was a man of high intelligence, integrity, 
ingenuity, and determination. He was gifted in the understand- 
ing of things mechanical, in drawing, in original thinking, and 
in inventions. He was versatile, adaptable, and creative in 
many ways. I have wondered what his life would have been like 
if he had had the advantage of higher education. 

Like most Roseville people, my father saw everything 
that he had worked for swept away and could do nothing about 
it except to work when he could and to endure. Determined to 
carry on at work too exhausting for a man of his age, he died 
trying to save those dependent on him. 

On the wall beside his telephone, my father had hung 
two small wooden plaques, one of Washington, one of Lincoln (I 
still have them.). Below them was this motto: 

Be thou not false unto thyself, 

And it must follow as the day the night, 

Thou can't not then be false to any man. 

He saw this motto every time he lifted the receiver off its 
hook. No truer words could have been said about the way he 
lived his life. 



DONA DONUT, UNFORGETTABLE GIVER 

Dorris Taylor Nash 

Dona, a lanky, freckled offspring of a Baptist preacher, 
learned early in life about hard work. Nicknamed "Donut" by 
schoolmates, her school days were over due to a near fatal 
mysterious lung disease. Among her family photographs is a 
picture of a gaunt twelve-year-old face peering at a camera with 
her clothing loosely hanging on her shrunken figure. Her family 
wanted a picture of the child before she died. But she lived, 
crediting her Irish background and prayers to God for survival. 
As a teen, she worked hard in cane fields during hot Illinois 
summers to further the family sorghum molasses venture. 
Believing she was the homely one in the family, she was 
surprised when a very handsome man named Irven Fisher from 
nearby Belltown asked her to be his wife. They married in 1923. 

Marriage brought years of hard work for the couple. 
They lived as tenant farmers for awhile and then Irven got a 
factory job. Ten babies arrived the first twenty years, and Dona 
buried four of her children in her lifetime. Two died as infants: 
Gene, the happy-go-lucky son, died in an auto accident as a 
young husband, and Jo Ann, unable to cope with the breaking 
up of her marriage, committed suicide. 

Christmas always makes me remember Dona's efforts 
to put holiday cheer in her house. Money was scarce for so many 
years, but the live tree always was decorated with popped com 
garlands and twisted strips of red and green crepe paper. A 
honeycombed bell always hung from the ceiling light in the 
middle of the room. I still think true Christmas colors are red 
and green. 

The family motto was "make do with what we have," so 
the vegetable garden, the cow in the small bam on the back of 
the lot, the flock of chickens in the small hen house, and the pig 
raised and butchered each winter provided good food and 
nutrition at her table each day. She opened her home to any 



relative who needed a temporary home and never seemed to 
mind the crowding the family put up with to make room for a 
guest. 

During the 1930s, her kitchen door was almost a daily 
target by the occupants of the local hobo jungle a couple blocks 
away by the railroad tracks in White Hall, Illinois. No hungry 
man was turned away, and whatever the family was eating the 
hoboes got a share of. One day as she was sweating and 
diligently scrubbing away on the washboard under a tree in her 
backyard, a hobo walked around the house and asked for a meal. 
It was nearly noon. 

Receiving a plate of beans and corn bread, the wash day 
menu, he ate hungrily and then, seated on the porch steps, 
began to answer questions about his travels. He told her he and 
his wife had been diamond hunters in South America in part of 
the Amazon River basin. When asked if he found diamonds, he 
replied in the affirmative. 

Looking at the hard working woman, fanning herself 
with a folded newspaper in an effort to cool off, he said, "I like 
your face, ma'am. Your high forehead tells me you are honest, 
so I am going to show you something. I will trust you not to tell 
what I have with me. Have you ever seen a real diamond?" 

On seeing the negative shake of her head, he continued, 
"One day my wife's horse kicked up a big diamond in some sand 
along the Amazon. We had to share our find with the Brazilian 
government, but we smuggled that one out of the country. Later 
I had it cut up into several smaller stones and polished. They 
are my security when I quit roaming the country. I will show 
you some of them." 

Reaching down into the hidden recesses of his clothing, 
he removed a roll of cloth from a dark pouch. Unrolling several 
layers of cloth, he revealed four stones, probably two carat 
weight each, sparkling in the noon day sun, and Dona saw the 
first diamonds in her life. 

She asked why he was bumming when he had that kind 



of security and he replied that his wife had died shortly before 
and he was trying to cope with loneliness by moving around. 
Strangely enough he even told Dona his name and his home- 
town name downstate. Fifteen or so years later. Dona's son Pat 
brought a co-worker home from a munitions plant at East Alton, 
Illinois. He mentioned his hometown and it was the same as the 
hobo. She asked the young man if he knew John Chance in his 
town. He said John Chance lived alone, kept to himself, and 
nobody knew much about him except that he seemed to be able 
to look after himself 

Dona didn't tell that he probably was living off dia- 
monds, for she had promised not to tell. It gave her a good 
feeling to know he had finally settled down and made a home for 
himself at last. 

With all her daily chores. Dona found time to devote to 
her children. Stories were told, games played, and right and 
wrong was taught. Grout Street, where she lived, was three 
blocks long and was kid heaven as nearly forty boys and girls, 
including a few who drifted over to play from Porter Avenue, 
gathered in the three-acre plot of ground across from her house. 
She kept an eye out for fair play, settled arguments, wiped 
bloody noses, showed the kids how to slog a Softball across the 
pasture, and sent home any kid that created trouble or wouldn't 
play "fair." Tin can shinny was a popular game if the kids could 
sneak the game when she wasn't watching. Tin can shinny was 
a form of street hockey with a tin can representing the puck. 
The best part of the game was getting a couple of tins cans 
smashed and bent to clamp onto the soles of their shoes so they 
made a clatter during the game. She paddled her kids once in 
awhile for tearing off shoe soles with the tin cans. New shoes 
were scarce at her house. 

Dona gave much of her time and self to anyone who 
needed her. The barnyard, chicken house, and garden put food 
many nights on neighborhood tables. Clothing was exchanged, 
and she helped to sit at nights with a sick child other than her 



own. She had an inner strength that helped her through each 
day and whatever problems it brought her. 

At age forty, she gave birth to her last child and then 
gave a lot of help to her children who were married. She took 
care of every newborn grandchild who came along. It was 
simply taken for granted that Dona would be there to help. 

In her forties, she was appointed chairman of the local 
VFW Auxiliary Christmas drive and held the position for over 
twenty years. She talked people into donating, and all her 
family at one time or another assisted in carrying the Christmas 
donations to the homes of the needy on Christmas eve. I recall 
my husband coming back from his trip with her one year 
laughing heartedly at a question from a four-year-old boy who 
had never seen anyone but her bring Christmas to the house. 
He clutched my husband's hand to get his attention, looked up 
seriously in his face, and asked, "Is her Missus Santa Claus?" 

Dona's spirit and health began to fail in her seventies 
following the death of her beloved Jo Ann. Her grief was soul 
deep and the light went out within her. It grieved her family to 
see her become a victim of strokes and serious heart disease. 
She is eighty-five now and she must sit and let others do for her. 
Her memory span is short and sometimes she doesn't recognize 
her sons and daughters when they come home. She is so 
beautiful with her Irish blue eyes still bright and smiling under 
her silver white hair. Her family sees beauty in her worn face 
and they recognize the inner love of this woman who has given 
all her life to help and do for others. She put family first, friends 
second, and herself last. She is an avid television wrestling fan, 
getting excited when dirty wrestling occurs and whooping with 
glee when her favorite wrestler wins. Her family gets quite a 
chuckle out of her enthusiasm. 

"To know Dona was to love her." I am so thankful I was 
around to know her during my lifetime. I saw her tears when 
she buried her children. I watched her feed the hoboes, I saw the 
diamonds, too, and helped carry Christmas gifts for her to the 



poor and even donned a Santa suit once when her Santa didn't 
show up. I absorbed her Irish sense of humor, her talkative 
nature, and witnessed her delight when she finally got an 
automatic washer and dryer when she was sixty years old. I 
learned that if you don't laugh at life you sure will cry a lot and 
that God takes care of all of us in His own way and time. 

Dona's small green cottage no longer rings with the 
sound of children except on holidays when the clan gathers. She 
uses a walker to move around and spiritedly gives her husband 
an argument when she doesn't agree with him. Some of her 
funny remarks are family treasures. 

For over sixty-six years, I have copied this extraordinary 
lady in many ways, and have used her methods for raising my 
own children. I live many miles from her, but she lightens my 
heart each time I drive to Grout Street and enter the small 
house and see her happy, welcoming smile in response to my 
saying, "Hi, Mom, I'm home again!" 



EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE AN AUNT MARY 

Eva Baker Watson 



When we're bogged down in a project that seems impos- 
sible, when our morale takes a nosedive and our wheels begin 
to spin, we all need a special someone to say, "OF COURSE you 
can do it!" That someone for me was my Aunt Mary. For who 
knew better than she about overcoming obstacles, about mak- 
ing the most of opportunities? 

Aunt Mary Trovillion Musgrave, bom in the late 1800s, 
grew up on an isolated farm near the small Southern Illinois 
village of Brownfield. She was the daughter who "stayed home 
with Mother" after all the others had fled the nest for higher 
learning and marriage. Her formal schooling ended with the 



eighth grade in a rural school, but this did not stunt her 
education or the development of a pattern of industry and 
creativity that enriched her life and the lives of others. 

In her teens she shared her artistic talent by leading an 
art class for other young people in the community. Later, for a 
time, having a natural bent for figures, she served as assistant 
cashier of the First Bank of Brownfield. Approaching middle 
age, then, she was appointed postmistress there. Ten years she 
held this office, walking two rugged miles daily, morning and 
evening, rooming and boarding near her work only when the 
weather was its worst. Our family lived close by and we thought 
it was a treat when Aunt Mary would spend the night with us. 

In the post office position, her horizons broadened. This 
small office served the village's one hundred citizens and two 
rural routes. With Aunt Mary in it, it became a bustling place, 
not because of mail that came and went by I.C. Railroad and two 
carriers, but because of the extras she inaugurated. Postal 
duties required Aunt Mary's presence, but didn't fill her time, 
so she used unoccupied hours to provide other services. 

The world of reading was opened to local people with the 
lending library Aunt Mary established with books brought in 
from the State Library in Springfield. The nearest public 
library was ten unpaved miles away, so readers of the commu- 
nity were delighted with this convenience. Aunt Mary also did 
retailing-sold gift items, millinery, and magazine subscrip- 
tions. With her love for people, her friendliness and gracious- 
ness to her patrons, she soon became everyone's beloved "Miss 
Mary." 

I, who had never had a job and was just out of high school 
in the middle of the depression and had no chance to attend 
college, was thrilled-and scared-when she made me her assis- 
tant. Even though such responsibility was frightening, espe- 
cially when I was left alone there, Aunt Mary simply said, "Of 
COURSE you can do it!" And I did. Her trust gave my self- 
confidence a needed boost. 



Sandwiched in all this activity was Aunt Mary's avoca- 
tion: writing. In every spare minute she pecked away with two 
fingers at her old Oliver typewriter, and features with her 
byline soon began appearing in an ever-growing number of 
publications. Then came upheaval. 

Election results put her on the wrong side of the political 
fence and suddenly she no longer was postmistress. This proved 
to be a plus for her, for now she could write all the time and her 
writing career burgeoned. 

It was not long afterwards that Cupid came calling on 
Aunt Mary. Romance entered her life when the Reverend J. A. 
Musgrave, pastor of McKinley Avenue Baptist Church in Har- 
risburg, came courting. This was a love match from the start 
and she was his happy bride at age fifty. 

My deeply religious Aunt Mary found fulfillment as a 
minister's wife. Later when Mr. Musgrave was made an- 
nouncer and coordinator for the WEBQ daily radio program, the 
Baptist House, she became his assistant. 

After only a few years of happiness. Aunt Mary was left 
a widow. She then was appointed to fill her late husband's place 
at WEBQ. There her influence took on a new dimension and she 
touched many other lives as her compassionate voice spoke 
daily to a broad range of listeners in Southern Illinois and 
Kentucky for twenty-five years. 

All through these changes in her life. Aunt Mary contin- 
ued turning out human interest features, news stories, and 
poems for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The St. Louis Globe- 
Democrat, Kessinger's Midwest Review, The Paducah Sun- 
Democrat, The Golconda Herald Enterprise, The Evansville 
Courier and Press, and a number of other publications. 

When I began my amateur writing career more than 
twenty-five years ago. Aunt Mary was my mentor, encouraging 
me in this as she always had in other ventures. After her death, 
it was inspiring to me to realize she again was urging me on, this 
time in a legacy. She willed to me her large office desk and her 



electric typewriter. As I use them today I hear her still saying, 
"Keep writing! You can do it!" She lives for me now, unforget- 
tably, a symbol of encouragement. 

Everyone should have an Aunt Mary. 



MEMORIES OF GRANDMOTHER THOMAS 

Eleanor H. Bussell 

My memories of Grandmother Thomas reach back about 
seventy years. One of my very first recollections is the delicious 
meat pie that Grandmother served at the round dining-room 
table on a Sunday when my father and mother and my younger 
brother, Jim, were my family and we four were at Grandmother 
and Grandfather Thomas's home on the edge of town for Sunday 
visiting. 

Surely, I must have been about four when I sat on 
catalogues placed just so on a chair to raise me high enough to 
sit at the table with the grownups. Grandmother would come 
bustling to the table, I remember, carrying a big blue and white 
pan (the forerunner to the ceramic casserole, I am sure) and set 
it in front of Grandfather for the serving. There was a crusty 
light brown cover punctured with slits that gave off a fragrant 
aroma inviting us all to pass our plates to the head of the table. 
After the meat pie that had a side dish of Grandmother's yellow 
tomato preserves, I think there was more often than not pie for 
dessert. 

Grandmother knew that her son-in-law, my father, was 
a great lover of pie-pumpkin, apple, cherry, or custard-just as 
long as it was pie. Of course, the children drew slim slices as it 
was unwritten there were two sizes of pie. My father was 
generous with his praise and complimented his mother-in-law 
by saying something like, "Mrs. Thomas, your pie is very good" 



(with emphasis on the very) and everyone around the table 
would laugh in a contented, well-fed way. 

Grandmother walked very fast-or so it seemed to me. 
She usually whistled in an undertone between her teeth as she 
sailed about the kitchen-to the stove to get another heavy 
flatiron and then back to the ironing board that, because it was 
legless, was laid with the wide end resting on the dining table 
and the smaller, rounded end resting on the back of a kitchen 
chair. And she almost always whistled when she came in from 
the back room or summer kitchen with a big crock of milk she 
wanted to skim. It never occurred to me to ask why Grand- 
mother whistled between her teeth that way. Children of my 
time (circa 1916-17) did not ask such inquisitive things of their 
Grandmother. 

Grandmother Thomas wore sunbonnets. Usually they 
were blue and white checked gingham. Some of them may have 
been calico, but always the predominant color was blue. Often 
the sunbonnet matched her apron. And, they were always the 
same style-those made with a gathered shawl which flowed 
over her shoulders and gave protection from the sun as she 
worked in the garden. Of course. Grandmother made her 
sunbonnets and starched the wide brims. Whenever she stepped 
outside she wore her sunbonnet, whether to the garden or to 
step down the hillside to milk the cow. 

Her garden had the finest, sweetest strawberries. Once 
when I was very small and was visiting for a few days at 
Grandmother's during the strawberry season, I was fed a big 
bowl of strawberries with yellow cream poured over them for 
being obedient and taking a nap. I felt rather special and 
rewarded. 

Grandmother did not have a cream separator as we did 
out on my father's farm. She poured the milk from the pail into 
large brown crocks ( two gallon size they must have been ) and let 
the cream rise. Then she skimmed off the cream and poured it 
into a squatty pitcher for its place on the round dining-room 



table. I was fascinated to watch Grandfather pour the thick 
cream into his coffee and then to pour some of the portion from 
the cup into a deep saucer to cool it to drinking temperature. I 
presume the reason it fascinated me so was because I never saw 
my father saucer his coffee. 

I have a recollection of one of my visits when a dark- 
skinned man came to the back door and wanted milk and eggs. 
Grandmother gave him some brown eggs and put some milk in 
a tin syrup pail. She said the man was a Gypsy who was 
"travelling through." Later, my mother told me the Gypsies 
frequently camped at the foot of the hill nearby and were known 
to be "light-fingered." Grandmother said they always asked her 
for food even though she was quite sure they had inspected the 
hens' nests before they came to the door. However, I never 
heard her openly accusing them of stealing. It was Grandfather's 
opinion that they stole whatever they could before they came to 
ask for any. 

Grandmother was a great knitter, too. She knitted socks 
and mittens and caps and scarves by the dozen. All her 
grandchildren from infancy and through grade school years 
received either a pair of mittens or a pair of socks for Christmas. 
Every grandchild could count on it. Those mittens had a knitted 
yam string attached to each cuff. The string went through the 
coat sleeve so that the mittens dangled and gave no excuse to the 
wearer for losing either one or the pair. I regret to say a half 
century later that this grandchild did not appreciate 
Grandmother's mittens. Today I recall the ubiquitous mitten 
string whenever I lose a glove. 

Grandmother was a wonderful woman, talented in so 
many ways, from knowing how to make a poultice to treat a bee- 
sting to the making of the best sugar cookies anyone could eat. 
The rabbit- and chicken-shaped cookies that she fashioned 
always had raisin eyes. Her cookies were always so plump and 
tasty. She used buttermilk in the recipe, I remember hearing 
my mother say. Sometimes she sprinkled a little bit of sugar 



over the top of the cookie just before they were popped into the 
oven of the old ironclad range. And then she sometimes served 
graham cracker "sandwiches" filled with either lemon or vanilla 
flavored frosting. I also remember that when we children went 
to Grandmother's we were forbidden beforehand to ask for 
cookies or anything to eat. We children were at that time 
brother Jim and little sister Libby and me. We were instructed 
to wait until Grandmother said briskly, "Well, who wants a 
cookie?" She usually added that she baked them fresh after she 
got the churning done that morning. 

Of course, we wanted a cookie. And we ate carefully with 
nibbles so as not to spill any crumbs. If it were summer and 
some of the other grandchildren were also visiting, we took our 
fat cookies or the frosted graham crackers out to the side porch 
where we could eat without fear of dropping crumbs on the red 
and white carpet in the sitting room. 

Grandmother laid the carpet at the Thomas home, too. 
She had the same red and white carpet pattern in the sitting 
room, in the parlor (which was seldom used), and on the stairs. 
Nor did any leftover pieces go to waste. Those smaller pieces 
worked just dandy for chair seats, especially on the kitchen 
chairs. One of my treasured souvenirs is the carpet-tack 
hammer with a slot near the base of the handle to hold the entire 
tack while another was being tacked into place. Not only is it 
a genuine antique, but has additional sentimental value be- 
cause it was Grandmother's tool. 

And Grandmother could do the double feather-stitch 
embroidery beautifully and evenly. She made splashers for the 
bedroom washstands. Her favorite pattern was a graceful swan 
embroidered among red floating lily pads. Off-white muslin 
was the material and the swan was framed in double feather 
stitching-always in red. 

She embroidered a muslin coverlet using the same red 
embroidery thread. She made blocks, with each block contain- 
ing a simple object such as a cup and saucer, a chair, a vase of 



flowers, and so on-drawing out each pattern herself. In one 
corner block, the date of the embroidery was stitched in. And 
the blocks were set together with the double feather-stitch. She 
made that coverlet in 1891, the year my mother was born. 

I won't forget the cold rainy morning in early May when 
Grandmother died. There had been a hard storm in the night 
and Grandmother just couldn't get her breath, Grandfather 
said. The lightning had damaged the telephone line, and he 
walked into town to the nearest telephone to call a doctor. But 
it was too late to get help for Grandmother. The same storm had 
damaged the phone lines out at our farm and Grandfather could 
not reach us. About 7:30 in the morning, a neighbor drove his 
team and wagon into the yard to give my father and mother the 
news. He had intercepted the jangling phone on the party line 
and had talked with Grandfather. 

It was a home funeral . Grandmother was laid out in the 
not-often-used parlor. She was dressed, I remember, in a black- 
rusty silk-her very best dress. I can't recall having seen her 
wear it often. Usually I saw Grandmother in neat calico prints 
and a blue and white checked apron. I do not recall the 
minister's text nor who was the minister. I believe he was from 
the Congregational Church as that was the church my grand- 
parents affiliated with. It was the first large funeral I recall 
attending. The little Thomas home on the east edge of town was 
a somber place with a lavender bowed wreath hanging on the 
front door. I recall that we children came home to the farm after 
the funeral in a horse and buggy. I believe my mother stayed in 
Lacon that night. I remember there were muddy roads and Dad 
left the little car there for mother while he drove the buggy home 
as there were chores to do. I was old enough to get the supper 
with Dad's help. 

It was a sad funeral and people all around were so quiet 
and spoke in hushed voices. I believe that we children harbored 
sober thoughts about the chicken- and rabbit-shaped sugar 
cookies that Grandmother would no longer stir up after she had 



done the churning of the morning. 

Grandmother was bom the next to the last day of 1852. 
She died in early May, 1929, at the age of seventy-six. 



MY MOST UNFORGETTABLE PERSON 

Ruth Rogers 

When I was sixteen months old my father left us. Left 
us, left my mother and me, alone in an old rundown country 
house with no food and no means of transportation. My mother, 
seven months pregnant, walked the mile and a half over the hot 
dusty roads, pushing me in a baby buggy, to the newly built 
home of her parents. There we found a warm welcome for all of 
us and it remained so until the death of my grandfather when 
I was fifteen years old. As we girls grew up, our grandparents 
were more like parents and our own mother, who taught school, 
was like an older sister. 

This grandfather, my most unforgettable person, was a 
Civil War veteran of Company 13, 103rd Regiment of the 
Illinois Volunteer Infantry-brave, strong, honest, compassion- 
ate, forthright, a good provider, good to all who came into 
contact with him, a hard worker, and generous with his time 
and his money. On and on I could go with adjectives to describe 
this grandfather who became and is the most unforgettable 
person in my life. He died on October 21, 1925. 

To you, my reader, it may seem that he lived a very quiet 
uninteresting life. Wrong! In reality his life was active and he 
lived each day as if it were a new adventure. He also had the 
ability to include others in this exciting journey. 

At seventeen years of age, he ran away from home to join 
the Yankee army to preserve the Union and to free the slaves. 
His parents, farmers from the Fairview, Illinois area, were so 



78 



concerned about him, the oldest of their eight children, they 
traveled from home to Peoria, Illinois, by horses and a wagon, 
to tell the recruiter that their son was not old enough to be a 
soldier. He had already enlisted when they arrived and had 
gone home to get ready to be gone for a time. They missed him 
again. He had already left, to be gone for three and a half years. 

He left home a boy, returned a man, afraid of nothing for 
the rest of his life. He was not afraid to live; he was not afraid 
to die. 

He did not belong to a church; however, he upheld and 
lived the same values as Christians. He loved his neighbors, he 
helped the poor, and he gave meals to and bedded down tramps 
who came through the country. His compassion and kindness 
extended to the grandchildren he sheltered. 

He sat between us at the table, helping two little folks. 
He dressed us when we were very small. He doctored us when 
we were sick. He cheerfully helped my aging grandmother care 
for us; after all, they were respectively sixty-five and seventy 
when I was bom. 

He instilled a love of reading and respect for history in 
me. Each evening after supper, we sat at the dining room table. 
With a little girl on each side of him, he helped us do our 
homework. Patiently and carefully he taught us reading, 
spelling, and arithmetic. He was smart! 

Homework done, he read to us. First from the biography 
of Sherman, his general in the Civil War. Then, to our great 
delight. Peck's Bad Boy. He knew how to balance our reading 
program from serious to fantasy. Peck's Bad Boy would do some 
irrational unrestrained things, which we would never have 
dared to do. As the episodes continued for several years, we 
were given stretches of imagination and release in our own lives 
which might never have happened otherwise. So, we were 
guided into a lifelong love of reading. 

My most unforgettable person knew how to turn work, 
hard work, into play. My sister and I would help him work; then 



we could slide downhill, skate in winter, or swim in summer. A 
special treat was the weekly trip to town to shop and do errands. 
We always got to buy something, a bit of candy, a pencil, or 
something we had been wanting. You see he taught us to work 
hard when there was work to be done and to play equally hard. 
We developed a feeling of satisfaction in work well done, 
sprinkled with activities which are fun. 

Occasionally my grandmother would become angry at us 
for some act of naughtiness and would threaten to "skin us 
alive!" if we did it again. Grandpa would lead us away to the 
barnyard, to the pasture, or to the creek and would soon have us 
running and laughing with our dog. We felt safe and happy; we 
knew our grandma would never "skin us alive." 

I never did hear my grandfather say a bad word about 
another person. He would tell my sister and I to love other 
people and they would love us. He helped me grow up in an 
atmosphere of love, "loving our neighbors as ourselves." He 
truly believed and lived this. 

He knew how to keep his land green and luscious-by 
rotating crops and by raising many cattle. He used natural 
fertilizer. His farm was a joy to behold-a safe refuge. 

During his lifetime he became affluent, with hard work 
and careful money management. He raise cattle and shipped 
them by the railroad car load to the International Stockyards in 
Chicago. After he had been to Chicago, he had many funny 
stories to tell. 

When I was twelve years old, he bought a new 1923 Ford 
car and paid cash for it. He was proud of the new car, but never 
did learn to drive it. I did. My mother was the family chauffeur. 
Fascinated, I watched her start it, push in on the clutch to get 
it into gear, and start. I watched her guide it and turn the 
steering wheel to turn a corner. It didn't seem much different 
to me than pulling on the bridle of my horse— either turned when 
you pulled or turned. So, one day, tired of waiting for my mother 
to get ready to go to town, I found myself out along the road 



where the car was parked. All at once I found myself behind the 
wheel, turning the key, pressing on the starter, and pushing in 
on the clutch. I was soon turning into the lane which went to a 
neighbor's house. All went well until I came to the end of the 
lane. Oh! Horrors!! The gate was closed and I realized that with 
all my great knowledge of driving, I hadn't noticed how to stop 
it. Needless to say, I drove right through the gate. Fortunately 
for the new car, the gate was old and brittle, the boards broke 
and flew in all directions, not leaving a dent or scratch. 

Into a pasture I drove. The daisies were a healthy crop 
that year. I made a road in them as I drove around and around 
in the pasture. Finally, I ran out of gas and came to a thankful 
stop. 

By this time our neighbors had telephoned my grandfa- 
ther, who hadn't missed me or the Ford. He came after me! As 
we walked home he just said, "Well if you're bound to drive, 
you'll have to be taught how to do it right." That was part of his 
philosophy. He was not angry: Hejust understood that a young 
person was growing up. 

At thirteen, I remembered beginning to cast my eye 
around at the boys, just as most girls do. Instead of seeing one 
of the boys my own age, my eye landed on the cousin of one of 
them-a fellow ten years older than myself. After a few Saturday 
night strolls around the downtown square in Bushnell, my 
grandfather talked to me. He said, "Now, Ruth you don't want 
to go wdth that old buck. Now do you?" He didn't say right out 
"You can't go with him. I wouldn't permit it." He asked me. 
Expressed that way of course, I didn't. "Old Buck" really turned 
me against the fellow; now I can't even remember what his 
name was. I never took another walk with "Old Buck" and got 
pretty selective about my boyfriends. 

I've often wished my children had an unforgettable 
grandfather like Joseph Henry Wheeler to help them in their 
growing up process. 



TO GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE I WENT 

Dorothy Van Meter 

Grandma Gerson lived in the big, white, two-story house 
down the road from us. A long porch stretched across the front 
of the house. A comfortable swing hung from the ceiling, and 
above the porch was a balcony, unused, but decorative. Several 
sturdy trees were in the front yard, and in the backyard were all 
kinds of fruit trees. I remember eating succulent apricots and 
pears when they were ripened to perfection. The cherry trees 
were loaded, and Grandma had buckets to can. In the backyard 
there was a smokehouse for curing hams and bacon, and a 
chicken house. Grandma named each chicken. Considering 
this familiarity, I don't know how she could enjoy cooking those 
wonderful chicken dinners, but she did. 

When I was five years old, we left our farm in southwest- 
ern Jersey County and moved to Wood River. My father entered 
the real estate business. Standard Oil Company had begun 
operating, and it was a good time to begin this occupation. I 
don't remember much about the move. I entered school soon 
after, and the fall stretched into winter, into spring, and then it 
was summer! It was then that I went to visit Grandma. 

My Aunt Alice, Uncle Frank, and Uncle Addison were all 
at home. Everybody worked hard. I can remember Grandma 
getting everyone up before dawn. She did not need an alarm 
clock to awaken her, but the boys had to be prodded. She 
grabbed her kitchen broom, and with the handle she would rap 
it against the ceiling. The boys had an upstairs bedroom 
directly above hers. "Boys, Boys," she would call, "it's time to get 
up." The boys arose out of desperation. 

Early rising had its rewards. I remember the complete 
stillness which was broken at dawn. The birds began chirping, 
the cows started mooing, and Grandma's spirally rooster began 
crowing. The sun, a brilliant, shiny ball of fire, had signaled 
that a new day had begun. Buckets of water had to be pumped 



80 



for the thirsty cows, and grain would be needed to feed them as 
well as the hogs and chickens. Also, it was a good time to weed 
the garden. 

The highlight of my visit to Grandma's was when the 
threshing machine came. It was a huge, black monster. I was 
impressed by its enormity. Itremindedmeof a train. It huffed 
and puffed and belched columns of black smoke as the wheat 
was separated from the straw and loaded into waiting wagons. 
Its shrill whistle could mean many things-to summon the men 
from the fields, dinner time, or back to work. However, Grandma 
had a dinner bell-a big bell on a post which called the men to 
dinner. 

It was fun to watch the men come in from the fields. The 
hot sun and active work made them sweaty. The man who 
operated the threshing machine had coal dust all over his face 
and clothing. Benches were lined up near the well, and on the 
benches were wash basins and Lava soap. Some of the men held 
their heads under the pump and had the added bonus of a 
shampoo. Others scrubbed their faces with the Lava soap, and 
all felt refreshed and ready for dinner. 

The men usually ate their dinner in shifts because the 
table was not long enough to seat the entire crew. As the men 
entered the house, they were greeted by one of the women 
waving a towel to "shoo the flies away." Also, hanging from the 
porch and kitchen ceilings were strips of Tanglefoot fly paper. 
The flypaper always did a good job. 

Once seated, the men were faced by a table overburdened 
with food. 

I liked to urge some of the men that I knew to try a piece 
of my cherry pie. I was about eight years old at the time. I 
remember my Grandma's patience. Even though she had been 
very busy in her pantry rolling out pies, she let me have a wad 
of dough for my very own. The dough felt good in my hands, and 
I rolled and stretched the dough again and again. I'm sure that 
the men who ate my pie bit into a crust that was tough and 



unpalatable, but they told me that it was delicious, and the 
unwarranted praise made me happy. After the meal was 
finished, the leftover butter and milk were put m an empty 
molasses bucket and lowered by rope into the well to keep them 
fresh. There was no refrigeration at that time. 

I remember Grandma's kitchen. It reached from one end 
of the house to the other. At one end, a pump, bucket, and dipper 
stood handy. At the other end, there was a cot where a weary 
one might rest. The pantry was a small room off the kitchen 
where Grandma stored her baking utensils and supplies. Large 
bins held sugar and flour. Grandma rolled out her pies in the 
pantry and mixed her marvelous angel food cakes; many times 
she used the whites of goose eggs. 

As Grandma worked in the pantry, she sang. She 
enjoyed singing and sang enthusiastically. I remember her 
singing a favorite, "We'll never say goodbye. For in that land of 
joy and song, we'll never say goodbye." 

Grandma also sang as she ironed. Her irons stayed hot 
on the cook stove. One iron could replace the other as it cooled. 
The irons were made to glide more easily by being rubbed over 
a bar of bee's wax. 

The big house was always clean and neat in spite of the 
many various chores that had to be performed. My favorite 
room was the parlor, a small room that was reserved for 
company. The walls were papered in a large floral design. 
Heavily starched lace hung from rods above the windows. I was 
captivated by the organ sitting in the corner. However, I was 
disappointed because when I pulled the stops, a mournful 
discordant sound was emitted, not at all like the melodious 
tones I had expected. 

Grandma's lace doilies decorated every room. These 
were crocheted in her spare time. She also knitted and braided 
rugs from scraps. Beautiful quilt designs were cut and as- 
sembled from scraps of material. Much of the clothing that the 
family wore had been sewn by her. 



Grandma was also a candy maker. At Christmas we all 
received some of her divinity and chocolate creams. 

Her abilities were endless. The routine tasks in her life 
were lightened because of her faith in God. She praised Him as 
she sang the old hymns, "Work, for the Day is Coming" and "God 
Will Take Care of You." 

Today we are concerned with a search for self-fulfill- 
ment, but Grandma didn't search for it. She never knew it was 
her right. Self-fulfillment came to her naturally. She had work 
to do, and she did it. She was at peace with the world. She was 
fulfilled! 



THAT CHARACTER HAPPENS TO BE MY AUNT 

Effie L. Campbell 

"You don't have to be rich to be clean. Anyone can buy 
a bar of soap." That was the old cliche my Aunt Mina lived by. 
I think she was one of the most fastidious persons I've ever 
known. 

She prided herself on being properly attired for any 
occasion. And for "best," she always wore hat and gloves and 
usually a navy blue or dark-colored dress, with perhaps snow- 
white collars and cuffs of lace or organdy. By the time I got to 
know her, she had bobbed her wavy black hair and wore it in a 
neat, combed back style the way my mother wore hers. Aunt 
Mina was my mother's eldest sister. 

Mom was the youngest of ten children, only seven of 
whom survived childhood. My grandmother died shortly after 
her birth, and Aunt Mina, who was a teenager at the time, took 
over the household duties and the rearing of the younger 
children. And that was before the turn of the century when 
housekeeping was hard, back-breaking work-carrying water 



from a well, heating it on a wood-burning stove, scrubbing 
clothes on a washboard, and hanging them outdoors, even in 
wintertime when "long Johns" froze so stiff they resembled a row 
of Ichabod Crane's "headless ghosts." 

Their home was in Brown County, near Mt. Sterling, but 
as they grew up the family drifted away. Our family settled 
near Beardstown; Aunt Mina and Uncle Guy lived in Rushville. 

All went well for us until my father died in 1926, and the 
farm was sold. Then, with five kids still at home. Mom moved 
us into Beardstown. And from then on, it was uphill sledding- 
especially when the Great Depression came knocking at our 
doors. But it was during that time that I became better 
acquainted with my Aunt Mina. 

We had sold the family Dodge, and had to depend on 
"Shank's mare" to get around. So, when we saw Aunt Mina and 
Uncle Guy it was when they came driving over in their Redbird 
Overland. Uncle Guy never learned to drive. It was Aunt Mina 
who chauffeured the Redbird, and she was a "nervous" driver. 

All passengers riding with my aunt were cautioned to sit 
quietly and keep their voices down while the car was in motion. 
Otherwise, any disturbance could get on Aunt Mina's "nerves" 
and cause her to have an accident. I remember once how my 
little sister Marcella got into the car with her doll, and looking 
into the dimpled, bisque face, shushed it! 

But it wasn't one of us (or the doll) who caused Aunt 
Mina to have her one and only accident. According to our Uncle 
Guy, it was a foolishly brave toro. The bull jumped a fence and 
planted himself directly in the path of the oncoming Redbird. 
Aunt Mina hit him squarely in the rear end! 

Uncle Guy said mildly, "Mina, you hit that bull." 

From some accounts , my aunt used a word not ordinarily 
in her vocabulary. But she insisted she merely said, "That cow 
shouldn't have got in my way." 

Whatever she said, she somehow managed to maintain 
her status as a lady by avoiding the use of the word "Bull." 



Ladies simply did not use the word. Instead, they decorously 
called them "male cows," or in the case of swine, "Male hogs." 

Since she had assumed the role of mother while still very 
young. Aunt Mina continued to think of my mother as the baby 
of the family. So I guess it was natural for her to feel she could 
remind Mom about any slips in housekeeping. But the one time 
I vividly recall wasn't Mom's fault. It was mine. 

I was supposed to clean my room and do all the dusting, 
rug shaking, and dishwashing, with some help from my younger 
sister Marcella. But we sometimes let chores slip through the 
cracks-like the time we hid dirty pans in the oven after the big 
Thanksgiving dinner, or the many times we gave the furniture 
a hit or miss dusting. 

So the stage was set for Aunt Mina to run her fingers 
over the top of our old organ and find dust! And Mom sent me 
for the Old English and the dust rag. 

But if I'm beginning to paint a picture of my Aunt Mina 
as an unlikable eccentric, then I'm getting the picture lopsided. 
My aunt may have been too high-minded at times, and a bit 
eccentric, but she was far from unlikable. She had a dry sense 
of humor and a kind heart. 

She was a wonderful seamstress and made clothes for 
her two daughters, and later on, a grandchild she raised. Plus, 
she sewed and gave things to the less fortunate, including my 
sister and me. I remember how I dreaded my eighth grade 
graduation because we couldn't afford to buy me a new dress. 
And then, two days before the event, I got a package in the mail 
from my Aunt Mina. In it was a handmade, hand-embroidered 
new white dress! 

On another occasion we glimpsed that innate humor 
Aunt Mina so seldom showed. It was the day we all piled into 
an old car my seventeen-year-old brother Virg had bought for a 
few dollars, and we started out for Rushville. On the way, we 
had two stops-once to fill the radiator with water, and another 
to fix a flat tire. So we were late getting to Aunt Mina's 



After we explained the delay, my aunt took a long, hard 
look at our less than luxurious vehicle, and then with a wry grin 
said, "Virgil, I think you did a very good job of driving. Couldn't 
have done better myself" 

I loved to go to Aunt Mina's and to wander out into the 
big back yard where she and Uncle Guy raised flowers, fruits, 
and vegetables. How the two of them must have labored, 
dusting for bugs, cultivating, and weeding, to have such a 
beautiful garden. Aunt Mina cut many of her roses, peonies, 
mums, and other flowers and sent them to funerals and local 
churches. She took pleasure in giving away the bounty of their 
garden. 

Uncle Guy died of a heart attack long before Aunt Mina 
was laid to rest. And after he died, she lived on alone in their 
neat, small bungalow. 

After I was married and moved to a farm near Rushville, 
I used to meet her sometimes on the streets downtown, doing 
her shopping-a lonely figure, correctly dressed as ever in 
clothes that were rapidly goingout of style. But she would never 
compromise on things that mattered most to her, like keeping 
herself neat and clean. 

One day as I was waiting in the local variety store for a 
clerk to package my purchases, I glanced up and saw Aunt Mina 
through the window. As she opened the door, the clerk whis- 
pered, "That's Mrs. Grubb. She's a character." 

I suppose to some folks who didn't really know her. Aunt 
Mina may have seemed to be just that. But I saw her differently. 
Squaring my shoulders, I said proudly, "That character hap- 
pens to be my aunt." 

She was nearing ninety when she became ill and muddled 
in her mind and was subsequently placed in a nursing home. 
Having cooked her own well-balanced meals all her life, you can 
imagine what she thought of the food served to her in the home. 
"It's nothing but slop. I won't eat that. Take it away!" 

Believe me, the aides in the home had met their match. 



She hadn't lost all the sharpness of her mind-not yet. Even 
when I went to see her and she first called me Evelyn (one of my 
cousins), she immediately corrected herself. 

"Oh, what's the matter with me? Of course you're not 
Evelyn. You're Effie." 

I smiled and squeezed her hand. I think it was about the 
next to the last time I saw her while she was still with us. 
However, I often think about her and her undaunted spirit, and 
I know I will never forget my Aunt Mina. 



JOE AND HIS AMERICAN DREAM 

Joseph B. Adams, Jr. 

Somehow it seems a bit irreverent to call him by that 
shortened version of Joseph. Truthfully, it was most often 
"Pop". . . or just "Pa." In retrospect, my feelings toward him were 
more along the lines ofrespect or admiration. No hero stuff. No 
saying "I love you" all the time. That was reserved for certain 
special occasions, like graduation, or anniversaries, or depar- 
ture for long distances and extended periods. 

Joe completed his apprenticeship as carriage-maker 
ujider my Uncle Julius in Budapest. He earned his journeyman's 
papers (called the "book") at the age of about eighteen, but found 
no work in his native Austria-Hungary, then an empire under 
the leadership of Franz Joseph. After a year or so, with a small 
loan from his grandmother, Joe bought a train ticket to Naples 
and passage on a steamer bound for America. 

After his processing at Ellis Island, he proceeded by rail 
to Sharon, Pennsylvania. His only meal on the train was a 
pumpkin pie given to him by a Salvation Army "lassie." His 
sponsor promptly put Joe to work in a foundry where he pushed 
a truck laden with large castings. Citizenship then took about 



five years to earn, so Joe studied at night school to learn the 
English language along with Civics in order to pass the test. 

Joe found out about openings at the large Pullman 
works in Chicago where his brother-in-law worked. He was 
hired on with a finishing crew that built the wooden interiors of 
railroad sleeping-cars. The "gangs" were really a team of about 
six men who contracted to complete each coach in a specified 
time. Joe was elected leader, or "straw-boss," to assign and 
work the various tasks. 

When he learned about openings in the Yellow-Cab 
Company on the northwest part of Chicago, he applied for a job 
there. He was hired to work on the wood frames of the cabs. In 
those days the chassis was wood, so the vehicles were boxy- 
looking by today's standards. Then the Yellow-Cab Company 
was bought out by (General Motors about 1926, so they moved Pa 
and his family of Mom and me to Pontiac, Michigan, where a 
new plant was built. 

I remember spending my fifth birthday there, but soon 
after, we moved back to Chicago because Ma didn't like the hard 
water and apartment life. My folks had not sold the nice 
bungalow in Chicago, so we were glad to be back in the Windy 
City once again. 

As Pa was a skilled craftsman, now a cabinetmaker, he 
was hired as pattern-shop foreman at Majestic Radio Manufac- 
turing Company which took over the entire plant that was 
vacated by the former Yellow-Cab Company. Pa held that job 
from 1927 to about 1934 when the company went bankrupt, as 
did many other industrial businesses during those trying days 
of the Depression. 

Joe was in his prime during those seven years, and was 
responsible for the radio cabinets from their conception by the 
engineers and draftsmen to the finished product. The pattern- 
shop produced the prototype models and also made the "jigs" for 
the various production machines. Radio manufacture was an 
assembly-line process from chassis to cabinet, and he answered 



84 



for the smooth operation of production machinery that formed 
the various parts of the wood cabinet. 

The work-week then was five or six days with only a 
Sunday off. As I recall, that day was reserved for Joe's dinner 
at home and a "planning session" at the dining-room table for 
him and the different foremen in charge of each assembly 
process. Even the chief-draftsman was there as liaison between 
engineering and production. Mom would furnish a nice dinner, 
after which the table would be cleared and the men would get 
heads together for a sort of "think-tank" which involved previ- 
ous production problems and also plans for the coming work- 
week. There was much discussion and conviviality on those 
Sunday afternoons. 

After the plant closing, Pa still returned to clean things 
up in his beloved pattern-shop. Finally, he asked me to bring my 
coaster wagon, and we entered the main gate, together walking 
through the deserted factory to the area enclosed with chicken- 
wire. The workbenches were empty, and Pa's toolboxes were 
carefully placed in the middle of the pattern-shop. He loaded 
them onto my red "DeLuxe" coaster wagon and we left behind 
a tremendous facility that once produced thousands of radios 
wdth the well-known slogan of "Majestic Radio-Mighty Mon- 
arch of the Air." Its symbol was a world glove with an American 
eagle perched over it. Pa was the last production employee to 
leave the factory. The memory of that day still lies vivid in my 
mind. Joe went on to work out his remaining years at various 
otherjobs in Chicago. He never was really out of work. He could 
do anything with wood, so was in demand at the factories. 

After over fifty years of work at his trade, Pa somewhat 
reluctantly retired at the age of seventy. Fulfdling his lifetime 
of hard and productive work, he and Ma moved to California. 
There on the west-central coast, he rests alongside Ma. Just as 
thousands of other immigrants had before him, Joe realized his 
"American Dream." In the Hebrew, Joseph means "He Shall 
Add." Joe did. 



THE WOMAN IN THE GILDED CAGE 

Ruth Gash Taylor 

"Tell us about Mrs. C," I would beg Mother when it was 
story time at our house. 

Possibly it was the mystery surrounding the wealthy 
recluse which fascinated me, but I never tired of hearing as 
much of the story as Mother knew. 

Ellen C. lived south of Warsaw, Illinois, and she had no 
known relatives. She had been married, but her husband 
disappeared. Neighbors claimed Ellen chased him off with a 
butcher knife. 

Certainly she regarded men with contempt and distrust. 
No male was ever admitted to her house. 

The C. land was farmed on shares. At harvest time, the 
owner stood in one of the wagons to watch division of the grain 
in a day when women were neither seen nor heard. Once, when 
the tenant came to settle up with her, he essayed a pleasantry 
about the weather. "Just give me the money, mister!" was the 
brusque reply. "Never mind the nice day." 

It was whispered that Ellen stored her dirty dishes in a 
barrel, and washed them only once a month. Mother did not 
believe this. She had been allowed in the house a couple of times 
as a child for cookies and milk. She had not been permitted to 
stray beyond the kitchen, but she said that room was spotlessly 
clean. 

Ellen ventured away from home three days a year. My 
grandfather drove a team of horses to take her to Quincy one day 
and to Keokuk (Iowa) another time for shopping expeditions. 
She paid for all purchases with gold which she kept stored in her 
house. 

She sat enthroned on a nail keg in the back of my 
grandfather's spring wagon for these journeys. She was a large 
woman, and her turn-of-the-century skirts billowed around 
her. She protected herself from the sun with a big black 



umbrella. 

Ellen spent one day a year visiting her friend, Elizabeth 
Tyree, who was my grandfather's Aunt Lib. She always took 
along several quarts of apple butter. Aunt Lib would then spend 
a day with Ellen, bringing some of her famous blackberry 
preserves. 

Incidentally, Aunt Lib was the kind of housekeeper who 
probably waxed her window sills. It is unlikely she would have 
been friends with someone who stored dirty dishes in a barrel 
for a month. 

The women lived only five or six miles apart, but they 
saw each other only those two days a year. Possibly months 
went by when Ellen did not see a human being. She discouraged 
visitors, and she had no telephone. 

Mother taught country schools between her graduation 
from high school in 1912 and her marriage in 1918. Among the 
schools was Rocky Run in her home community. 

She drove her horse and buggy past the C. place one 
October Sunday evening, en route to her boarding place, and 
she saw smoke lazily drifting from the chimney. Ellen C. died 
that night. 

At first, it was believed the house caught fire, and Ellen 
was trapped within. However, when her body was found in the 
cellar with unburned cloth at the back of her neck, it indicated 
to the sherifTthat she had been strangled, and her house was 
burned to conceal the crime. 

It was known that Ellen never set foot outdoors after 
dark. Herhouse was a fortress with bars at the windows. It was 
theorized that she had forgotten, that once, to shut up her 
chickens and had gone out. Or, perhaps she heard a disturbance 
among the chickens, and went out to defend them against a 
possum or weasel. Upon her return to the house, she found the 
murderer waiting for her. 

It was hard to find a suspect. While Ellen was eccentric, 
she had no known enemies. Some people believed her husband 



had returned for vengeance. Others blamed woodcutters who 
had camped in nearby timber and who might have heard stories 
oftheC.gold. 

Bloodhounds were brought in, and they did indeed give 
tongue as they panted toward the cold ashes of the woodcutters' 
fire. The men had moved on to other woods, and it took some 
time to locate them. No arrests were made. All the men could 
satisfactorily account for their whereabouts the night of the 
murder. 

Officially, it was an unsolved murder. 

Years later, after I was grown and away from home, 
Mother phoned one day in great excitement. "I know who 
murdered Ellen C!" she declared. 

She explained that a lifelong friend had visited her, and 
confided that her (the friend's) aunt, on her death bed, confessed 
she murdered Ellen C. The murderess told her horrified 
relatives how she waited until she saw lamplight in Ellen's 
windows. She described wrapping one arm with a piece of torn 
sheet, and splashing it with chicken blood. Then she went to the 
C. house and beat upon the back door to importune help. Ellen 
took her in. 

The murderess found the gold. She waited a judicious 
interval before inventing an inheritance from a relative in the 
past. No one had ever suspected the woman. 

Mother always spared a flower for Ellen's lonely grave 
on Memorial Day. My sister and I do the same, in Mother's 
memory. 



OUR COURAGEOUS LADY 

Betty L. Hardwick 

I did not know Helen McClay and her husband A. L. in 
their time of power and abundance-the days when McClay was 
a powerful name. Newspapers boasted of the thousands of 
bushels of apples being shipped each year from the McClay 
orchard and proclaimed it as the largest individually owned 
orchard in the world. They talked of the extensive McClay farm 
lands and their fine produce, their fine honey production and 
sales, the important gatherings with VIPs in attendance, the 
McClay ball teams, and many other things linked to the McClay 
name. 

Those were the days when the little towns of Hillview 
and Patterson grew and bloomed. The streets were filled with 
people having money in their pockets-money earned in McClay 
orchards and McClay fields. Those were the days also when 
businesses lined every downtown street in the towns, especially 
Hillview. 

I first knew Helen McClay long after all of these were 
just memories and they had tasted deeply the bitter cup of 
bankruptcy through no real fault of their own. 

A series of misfortunes dogged the progress of A. L. 
McClay and his helpmate Helen. A fire from a carelessly tossed 
match cost them forty acres of fine trees in 1924. Barely had the 
orchard begun to recover with new growth when gigantic floods 
struck the low lying Hillview area. It began in August, 1926, 
and the waters did not drain away until February, 1927. When 
it was over, the waters had stood upon the trees for one hundred 
days, and six hundred and forty acres of prime apple trees were 
damaged or dead: the entire harvest of those particular acres 
was lost as was the grain on the flooded farm land. The 
Depression arrived in 1929 with the orchards still reeling from 
the flood's massive blow. The McClay financial situation 
worsened. A. L. was forced to sell the beloved orchards to the 



Chicago Cold Storage Company. Along with this bitter disap- 
pointment was the loss of many acres of prime farm land in 
1930. The formerly prosperous little Bank of Hillview closed its 
doors-the first bank in Greene County to go bankrupt. The 
people of the community, as well as the McClays, were stunned. 

The McClays moved from the big house that had served 
as headquarters for the business to the small house where 
they'd started their married life and with determination started 
over. 

A. L. worked as an employee in what had been his own 
orchards, managing the business. For about ten years or so, the 
orchards grew and prospered. Then disaster struck again in the 
form of a fire that wiped out the honey business. Gradually over 
the next years the orchards went into a decline. By 1949 the last 
of the McClay apple trees was uprooted. With the loss of its 
source of income, the towns' businesses and population began to 
move. How hard it must have been for Helen and A. L. to stand 
helplessly by and watch all of this. 

Fate had still another blow in store for Helen. Her 
beloved husband suff"ered a series of strokes in the 1950s and 
died in 1957. 

The countryside mourned with Helen and her children, 
now grown up. There were many who remembered the kind- 
ness, courtesy, and respect with which they had always been 
treated by the family, and there were those who remembered 
the help A. L. had given when they were in need. 

Helen lived alone in their first home after A. L.'s death. 
She kept a few cows, feeding and caring for them herself. The 
farm land was rented out. Her children and grandchildren, 
always precious to her, were now even more so. If she ever felt 
disappointment or grief over any of them, it was all between her 
and the Lord. 

She loved the community of Hillview and joined in all the 
local "doings." She kept many scrapbooks and photo albums 
filled with newspaper clippings and pictures of the town and its 



activities. She was the community's unofficial historian. It was 
to her that all who needed to trace the past turned for informa- 
tion, and she was always willing and eager to show her records. 
She loved to tell of the days gone by, but took a lively interest in 
all that was going on about her, too. 

Tragedy struck at her again when a grandson was killed 
in an auto accident and again when a daughter died. Helen's 
sorrow was deep but her faith in her God kept her going, and, 
as always, she was every inch a lady. Helen McClay's spirit was 
never broken, and she never gave up or became embittered. 

The years sped by. Helen was past eighty years old. She 
was still active, caring for her cows, tending her big yard, 
keeping up with her church and community work, and driving 
herself wherever she went. 

When her eyesight began to fail and her health to break, 
she reluctantly sold her cows and gave up driving her car. In 
time, she found it financially prudent to sell the farm, reserving 
the home for herself for her lifetime. 

At the age of ninety, Helen McClay died-still interested 
in everything and interesting to talk to. Typical of her dislike 
of show, she had requested a simple graveside ceremony. 

When fall walks through the hills, the spirit of what once 
was returns in the smell of ripe apples blowing on the wind and 
I remember once again the courageous lady, Helen McClay. 



THE LITTLE DRUMMER MAN 

Dorothy Boll Koelling 

He was a wizened little man-old, perhaps, but no one 
really knew. His small eyes sparkled with friendliness. It 
seemed he always cherished a happy secret that he wouldn't 
reveal to anyone. His voice, when he spoke, was high pitched, 



as one would expect from his diminutive size. Neatness pre- 
vailed in his dress that distinguished him from the other 
peddlers who came to our house in those times. He was most 
meticulous, from the stiff derby he always wore and the cellu- 
loid collar with a narrow black tie to the worn but much polished 
shoes on his feet. His dark suit showed signs of many pressings 
and the cuffs of his coat were a bit frayed, but it proved that he 
was making a mighty effort to appear a successful businessman 
to his customers. 

To us children, living in the rural area of Adams County 
near Quincy, Mr. Goodygood was a strange and fascinating 
person who broke our lonely routine with his regular visits. You 
ask about his name? To this day I don't know what his name 
really was. But that's how it sounded when folks addressed 
him, and I'm willing to accept it so. 

Mr. Goodygood's name seemed to fit him as well as did 
his horse and rig. We always knew he was coming even before 
we could see his horse pull into our driveway near the kitchen 
door. His horse was a perfect complement to her master. She 
was slight but strong enough to pull the cart. She had rather sad 
eyes with drooping lids and was a most gentle creature wanting 
very much to please. When we came out, she would toss her 
head and the little bells on her harness behind her ears tinkled. 
She seemed to be very glad to see us, especially when we gave 
her a bit of sugar or a pat on her face. 

After that greeting we would turn, eager to see Mr. 
Goodygood's wares. He was a drummer, as the traveling 
salesman was called in those days. His wagon was a black 
enclosed cart. Within, shelves lined the sides from front to back. 
Built-in drawers held small articles like buttons, thread, rib- 
bons for the women of the house; nails, bolts, tools for the men. 
Larger articles such as clothes, blankets, and bolts of material 
for sewing were piled neatly on shelves. To look into the 
drummer's wagon was like looking into a wonderland. Such a 
variety of items, such lovely colors in the fabrics, such 



excitement in trying to guess what the drawers and boxes 
contained. Sometimes he would bring his cases into the house 
so we could see the items more closely and even touch them. 
These were usually the newer articles. Naturally, his offerings 
were seasonal . In the spring, we bought garden seeds, or maybe 
some leather to mend a harness, or paint for the garden fence. 
In the fall, we chose warm socks and underwear, maybe some 
all-purpose linament that would serve as well for a sore throat 
as for a rash caused by poison ivy. 

As he displayed his articles Mr. Goodygood was most 
polite, but not deferential. We recognized his pride both in 
himself and his occupation. No matter how busy Mama and 
Daddy were they always took time to look over Mr. Goodygood's 
items, and they would always buy something even in those 
Depression years because they knew that things weren't going 
well for the drummer either. His gratitude was evident by the 
shine in his eyes and his crooked smile. 

The wagon itself was deteriorating as time passed. We 
could see patches of rust here and there painted over with a 



glossy black paint. One time we saw a new display case added 
to the equipment. Then, as time went on the wagon boasted a 
new wheel, the cost of which had surely been a major outlay 
from meager assets. 

Occasionally Mr. Goodygood would come into the house 
to join us at the large kitchen table for a glass of milk with a slice 
of freshly baked bread spread with apple butter. Once, there 
was a severe thunderstorm when Mr. Goodygood was at our 
house, and we urged him to stay the night with us. He was very 
appreciative of this offer and he accepted. I think he feared 
more for his horse than for himself if he ventured on. I 
remember the next morning when he left, he gave us children 
each a long switch of black licorice, a treat for us. 

Then Mr. Goodygood came no more. We realized an 
emptiness that was only partially filled by our memory of the 
little drummer man with his sad-eyed horse. His existence 
represented an era of the past. In looking back we came to 
realize that he had enriched our lives. 




V Wild 'things 



WILD THINGS 

Illinois is not a state that is known for its wild things and 
wild places. In the northeast corner it is a crowded metropolis 
fringed by spreading suburbs, and "downstate" (everywhere 
else but Chicago) it is a com-and-soybean empire where every- 
thing is long-settled and agriculturally productive. The vast 
prairies that once characterized the Prairie State are gone, the 
forests are diminished, and the wild things are under siege-at 
least, in most areas. 

It is now difficult to imagine what Illinois was like 150 
years ago when it was still being settled. Fortunately, some 
vivid pioneer accounts survive. Perhaps the best is Eliza 
Farnham's Life in Prairie Land (1846), which is based on her 
experience in the Illinois River Valley during the 1830s. She 
describes the flowered prairies, the mysterious howl of wolves, 
and the limitless ducks and geese on the Illinois River. But her 
main focus is the coming of civilization to the wilderness, and 
she knew even then that settlement was changing the state 
forever: "Broad farms open as by magic on the blooming plain; 
stately houses take the place of the solitary cabin; and industry, 
that counts her gains, has stretched her transforming arm over 
all the fair land. The wild, the free, the mysterious, are 
fading . . . ." 

In our own century, those who want to experience the 
wild things in Illinois have had to actively seek them. One of the 
most dedicated and perceptive seekers was a self-taught natu- 
ralist and writer from Springfield named Virginia S.Eifert. The 
best of her short pieces on the natural world are collected in 
Essays on Nature (1967), available at the Illinois State Mu- 
seum. Another noted seeker of wild things was Leonard 
Dubkin, a Chicago resident, whose best book is Enchanted 
Streets (1947). 

Like the writings of Eifert and Dubkin, the memoirs in 
this section of Tales from Two Rivers V reveal the importance to 



human life of experience with our natural environment. For 
example. Garnet Workman refers to the woodland on her farm 
as "the good provider," and indeed it was. The woods provided 
not only nuts, berries, squirrels, wildflowers, and wood itself, 
but also a harvest of experiences that became significant memo- 
ries, as her account reveals. 

In contrast, Glenn Lamb's "Encounters with Snakes" 
and Robert T. Burns's "More Than Two Scents Worth" remind 
us that some wild things have never been welcome neighbors to 
most people. Skunks have been killed for their pelts, but snakes 
have usually been killed for no particular reason-other than 
fear of having them around in those instances when they are 
believed to be poisonous. Public fascination with snakes reached 
a high point in Illinois during the later nineteenth century, 
when people sometimes competed to see who could kill the 
biggest snake and "snake stories" were fairly common in the 
newspapers. Perhaps when even snakes receive the kind of 
respect that all wild things deserve, we will have finsdly achieved 
a sense of ethical relationship to the living earth. 

Several writers in this section reveal their uncommon 
sensitivity to particular wild things. For example, a childhood 
experience with foxes provided Marie Hawkinson with an 
intuitive sense of the instrinsic worth of those very common 
predators of the Illinois fields and woods. And James B. 
Jackson vividly recounts his experiences vrith bats. Without 
doubt, his life was enriched by contact with those widely 
misunderstood and largely unappreciated creatures of the 
night. 

Even plants can provide memorable experiences. Lucille 
Ballinger's fine story of her quest for the red spirea bush reveals 
how clearly that episode impressed itself on her mind. And her 
closing note, on the destruction of the bush by subsequent 
residents of the farm, suggests the deep, unfortunate truth that 
plants and animals are all the more important to some of us 
because many others do not find any value in them. 



Among these authors Dorris E. Wells is perhaps the 
most ardent amateur naturalist. She has spent a lifetime 
getting to know the wild things around her native Hamilton, 
located on the Mississippi River across from Keokuk, Iowa. Her 
memoir of Cedar Glen, which is now part of the Alice Kibbe Life 
Science Station owned by Western Illinois University, reminds 



us that wild places and wild things are indeed precious, and if 
future generations are to share these joys and have similar 
memories to keep, the natural world in Illinois must be our 
perennial concern. 

John E. Hallwas 



93 



THE TIMBER BELT 

Floy K. Chapman 

In the early days of our state, the country was divided, 
roughly, into three natural areas-the great prairie land, the 
river bottoms, and a region between them covered with great 
hardwood forests. Because the good prairie land was taken 
first, and because little river towns grew up at the edge of the 
bottom area, wildlife fled to the timberlands as the white 
settlers arrived. 

Not until Civil War days were the timber lands invaded 
by a group of Southern settlers. My grandparents were among 
those who settled in the Pleasant Dale neighborhood about 
seven miles west of White Hall. The first decade of my life was 
spent on one of the small farms that grew up on the edge of that 
great timber area. 

Our house faced the prairie, but three patches of virgin 
timber were nearby. Great oaks, hickory, elm, and hard maple 
trees covered these areas. Wild grape vines as big as our legs 
climbed on some of the trees, and covered them with fruit in 
season. Paw paws, white dogwood, red bud, and various kinds 
of bushes grew under the trees and the ground was dark and 
damp. 

We children never ventured into the timber alone be- 
cause we were afraid of the noises that came from it at night and 
we heard many stories of the wildlife there. Sometimes we saw 
wild cats, raccoons, possums, skunks, foxes, a lynx, and many, 
many squirrels, rabbits, and groundhogs. In winter, the coun- 
try folks hunted and trapped fur for cash. 

Snakes of all kinds, harmless and poisonous, were a way 
of life, and every farm had guns over the door and a hoe near the 
back door for protection. 

Bird song filled the air, and nests were always near at 
hand. Bluebirds, thrushes, larks, swallows, redbirds, hawks, 
crows, buzzards, and sparrows of many kinds were our 



acquaintances. We were not far from the Illinois River bottoms, 
and every year mighty flocks of wild ducks, geese, and migrat- 
ing birds of every kind heralded the change of the seasons. 

In season, and in their particular area, Dutchman's 
breeches; blue, yellow, and purple violets; red and yellow 
columbine; spring beauties; shooting stars; bluebells; Jack-in- 
the-pulpits; and the rare and beautiful yellow lady slippers 
were ours for the taking. 

Wahoo bushes and bittersweet vines clambered over the 
rail fence back of the barn. Wild crabapples and plums covered 
the hillside, and patches of wild gooseberries, dewberries, and 
various sized blackberries dotted the hilly bluegrass pasture 
back of the barn. 

In warm, summer evenings, my father and mother 
would sit on chairs in the yard and we children would lie on 
pallets on the ground while the house cooled off. We looked at 
the stars-thousands and thousands of them. Then, far away, 
we would hear "Whip-poor-Will! Whip-poor-Will!" from the 
west timber. 

Then, from the north woodlot-"Who? Who? Whoo?" the 
hoot owl would reply. 

We lay quietly listening, and soon the first notes of a 
mockingbird would come sweetly from a nearby oak. Then, the 
music became louder and sweeter. We went to sleep with his 
song filling the air with harmony. 

It was over eighty years ago. 



OUR WOODS-THE GOOD PROVIDER 

Garnet Workman 

Our centennial farm located in Pleasant Township, 
Fulton County, Illinois, is comprised of farm land and extensive 
pasture woodland. As I recall growing up on this farm, I realize 
that the wooded area was indeed a good provider of many 
things. 

During the winter months, my father hunted and trapped 
cmimals for their pelts. When I was a small child, Dad promised 
to buy a new pair of shoes for me if he caught a fur-bearing 
animal in his traps. I was overjoyed when I saw him bringing 
home a skunk, and I jumped up and down, clapped my hands, 
and exclaimed to my mother, "Goody! Goody! Daddy caught a 
skunk! I'll get a new pair of shoes." 

During February, the woods yielded sassafras roots 
from which my mother brewed delicious sassafras tea. She said 
it was good for the blood. 

In late April and early May we went "mushrooming" for 
the delectable morel, or sponge, mushroom. Mother would fry 
these delicacies a crispy, golden brown, and I'm sure they 
rivalled the ambrosia of the mythological gods. 

With the return of spring, the cattle were put out to 
pasture in the woods, where they grazed on the lush grass and 
drank from a branch or from Tater Creek. In later years, we had 
a pond and stocked it with fish. 

The wildflowers from the woods provided many lovely 
arrangements for our home, and Mother transplanted bluebells 
along one side of our front lawn. Besides bluebells, we found 
Sweet Williams, Dutchmen's breeches, daisies, violets (our 
state flower), buttercups, trilliums, bloodroots, harebells, and 
deer's tongue or dogtooth violets. 

In July, we picked wild blackberries from the woods. 
Mother made pies and cobblers from the luscious fresh berries. 
She also canned the berries and made blackberry jelly and jam. 



My sister and I sometimes sold a few gallons, and were very 
pleased with the small amount of money we earned. 

In the hot summer months the woods provided an ideal 
place to wade in the refreshing streams. A deep hole in the 
branch also served as a bathtub for Dad when he returned from 
the fields after a long day. 

My father enjoyed hunting and would bag squirrels for 
my mother, sister, and me, but he would not eat them. Mother 
would fry the young, tender squirrels, and, in my opinion, they 
were better than chicken. The older squirrels were stewed and 
served wath a smooth, flavorful cream gravy. 

The creek provided bullheads, sunfish, and an occa- 
sional turtle for many a tasty meal. Grandfather Vaughn fished 
in the creek during the spring of his eighty-sixth birthday. 

In the fall, we gathered black walnuts, hickory nuts, and 
hazel nuts from the woods. Two methods of hulling the walnuts 
were used: one was to run the car tires back and forth over them 
and the other was to run them through the corn sheller. Picking 
out nut meats was an enjoyable project on a cold winter night. 
Hickory nut candy was one of my mother's special treats for 
Christmas. 

Our woods also provided wood and coal for cooking and 
heating. A large woodpile was located west of the garage, and 
my sister and I would carry armloads of wood to the kitchen for 
Mother to use in her large old-fashioned range. We trained our 
dog Rover to carry one stick of wood in his mouth. 

During the summer of 1934, Dad and one of my cousins 
dug coal and sold it to the Branson School in our neighborhood. 
With this money, we drove our Model-A Ford to Chicago and 
attended the World's Fair, known as the Century of Progress. 

Before Christmas, Dad, my sister, and I would take our 
sled to the woods, where Dad would cut a small, well-shaped 
cedar for our Christmas tree and bring it home on the sled. 

Besides providing all these material things, the woods 
was a wonderful place to meditate and feel close to God. 



Grandfather Vaughn named one of the large hills Mt. Nebo. No 
doubt, when he bought this farm, he looked over his land from 
this high hill just as Moses viewed the Promised Land from Mt. 
Nebo. 

Our woods provided many things which I remember 
with gratefulness and joy. 



MORE THAN TWO SCENTS WORTH 

Robert T. Burns 

Many folks of the Illinois prairies have had disastrous 
run-ins with that beautiful black and often striped little wild 
animal known for his nauseating musk when he is aroused. 
Although he's really the farmers' friend because of his insa- 
tiable appetite for mice, he's quite unwelcome around home- 
steads. It's not only his smell that marks him for banishment; 
the skunk has always had an affinity for eggs and young 
chickens, which were staple commodities around farmsteads of 
the early 1900s. 

My first memorable encounter with this little member of 
the weasel family, whose fur is often called "Alaska sable," took 
place on our farmstead one mUe west of Greenview, Illinois, and 
about ten miles north of Lincoln's New Salem. That and two 
other adventures vnth skunks involved three domestic ani- 
mal s-a beautifvd tan and white collie named Betty, a ponderous 
sorrel Belgian mare answering to Molly, and a half-wild little 
horse of mixed ancestry known as Cricket. 

On a spring day a year prior to the American involve- 
ment in World War I, we had noticed the tell-tale aroma of 
skunk as we went about our morning chores. The cause of the 
stench was traced to the area under the com crib. Knowing that 
a family of that tribe, or perhaps more than one family, could be 
a menace to the new chicken crop, and could almost certainly 



lead to human social ostracism, my father and two older 
brothers accepted the offer of our hired man to enlist the aid of 
his valiant little terrier, Spot. The young man, Earl Eldridge, 
a son of a prominent Greenview doctor and somewhat of a 
daredevil by nature, was later destined to become a pilot in the 
fledgling American air force in the impending war. 

The little terrier went to work. Spot instinctively knew 
how to break the spines of the intruders, immediately killing 
them, then triumphantly depositing them at the feet of his 
young master. (My father, two brothers, and this six-year old 
kid maintained discreet shelters beyond the firing line.) 

Another spectator was Betty, our young Collie, just 
emerging from the middle stages of puppyhood. After she had 
happily observed Spot's dexterity and success, she seemed to 
say, as she cocked her head from side to side, "I want into the 
action." 

That turned out to be a rash and disastrous decision. 
Under the crib went Betty; out she dragged an adult skunk, 
dropped the animal to get a better hold, then mistakenly 
attacked her intended victim from the rear. Betty's adversary 
did what came naturally; the untutored pup received a full 
charge of the awful effluvia in the face and mouth. 

Although I was six years old at the time, I shall never 
forget the extent of Betty's torment. She went into a frenzy 
laced with yelping, retching, eating dirt, and rolling over and 
over while trying to paw the pain of that fluid from her eyes. 

Betty did recover from the venture, but she retreated 
that day to a shed where Dad ministered to her as best he could. 
The unfortunate pet was socially unwelcome for many days- 
something a naturally happy and gregarious puppy found hard 
to endure. 

A second incident came some seven years later as I rode 
atop a gang plow towed by a four-horse team with 01' Molly, a 
Belgian mare, walking to the right of her three companions. 
Usually such a gentle and cooperative horse is chosen for 



96 



Molly's position, to trudge along in the furrow while the others 
walked upon unturned soil to her left. It was a late spring day; 
successive rains had set back preparations for the new com 
crop. The field was flat and fairly smooth; and the horses 
needed little driving: I was in a trance, dreaming about the 
sumptuous meal awaiting us at noon time. 

It happened that "Uncle Doc" and Aunt Molly Hurst had 
returned to Greenview for a visit. Uncle Doc (S.T.) Hurst had 
been a doctor in the town for many years service after he had 
done a long stretch in the Civil War. Great-Aunt Molly and the 
doctor were impeccably moral; they had always denounced the 
silent movies of the early '20s and yet, they had retired to 
Hollywood, virtually living among the sinners of the screen. 
Uncle Doc was so straight-laced, though an accommodating 
doctor, that he demanded his Sunday School teachers meet with 
him in a weekly Saturday preparatory session before teaching 
their classes on the Sabbath. The Hursts were to be our dinner 
guests today. 

As I savored the upcoming meal (I am never an unwdlling 
feeder at the festive board), there were visions of salt tangy 
roast beef, brown gravy covering a mountain of mashed pota- 
toes, capped with a mound of Jersey butter streaming down in 
little rivulets of goodness, country fried chicken, homemade ice 
cream, and much more. 

As I recovered from the reverie, I noted the usual black 
and gleaming ripples of soil gliding over the double plow shares 
and mold boards. Then an alarming and unmistakable whiff of 
skunk jerked me into dismay. Walking down the furrow ahead 
of Molly was a mother skunk with her five little offspring, 
apparently about half grown. 

I could have stopped the team and permitted the little 
family to retire unmolested. But 01' Molly was trodding upon 
the furry creatures. One by one she purposely trod into 
extinction three of the critters, who before their demise, were 
unloosing a dreaded barrage of built-in ammunition. Why a 



naturally compassionate and gentle mare would choose to stir 
the animals into retaliation I shall never know. Incidentally, 
her hooves were no larger than those of a mastodon; neither 
were they much smaller. 

Fear of the consequences overwhelmed me. Should I be 
caught in that stream of vile and malodorous musk, I would not 
be in any way welcome at the festive board-in fact not even in 
the house. Setting the plow deep to forestall a potential 
runaway, I high tailed it away from the gagging smellorama. 

Miraculously, I remained free of the victims' assault, 
tripped the plow from the ground, and proceeded homeward for 
a joyous encounter with food and fellowship. But 01' Molly 
stank to high heaven for weeks-even for months after a rain. 
We had heard that bathing a victim of skunk spray in tomato 
juice would assuage the situation. But bathing a 2,000-pound 
mare in such a concoction is a bit mind boggling. 

Just two years later, in 1925, I saddled up the dappled 
gray little horse, Cricket, offspring of a half Indian-half Shet- 
land pony and an Arabian sire. His mixed blood was too much 
for him; he was never gentle and was always planning some 
outrage against his masters. In late afternoon we headed for a 
"haunted house," which sat long abandoned in a neighbor's field 
where I had set a trap. 

Before this trip, I had caught a pure black skunk on the 
old structure's grounds, but an unknown animal had attacked 
my quarry in the trap and had ripped its fur into strips, 
rendering worthless an otherwise valuable pelt. 

Arrival on this trip revealed a trapped striped polecat 
outside the window of the old house. After tying Cricket to a 
sapling, I entered the abandoned home of yesteryear and 
climbed the rickety old stairs to give me a chance to dispatch the 
furry prey with my old single shot, 22 Stevens rifle. I leaned out 
the paneless window to get a clear shot without any retaliation 
from the skunk. 

Early winter afternoon had almost turned to darkness, 



97 



particularly within the gloomy old structure. Then there came 
a squish, scraping sound behind me. Elevating my rifle and 
turning quickly to confront any intruder, ghostly or not, amid 
shivers of anticipation, I was soon relieved to find the eerie 
sound was old loose wall paper, well weighted with paste and 
old plaster, grating against a door. 

But I still had not completed my mission. One shot 
dispatched the prey; then it was placed in a gunny sack and tied 
securely to the saddle of the violently objecting riding horse who 
was snorting, rolling his eyes, and sniffing the gamey odor of my 
catch. 

Cricket had never before bucked; he'd been content to 
throw himself on his side or, for his idea of kicks, strike at 
mankind with his front feet. As I gripped the reins tightly and 
swung into the saddle, he tried a new trick for him; the frantic 
mount did a perfect upturn, causing me to land upon his neck, 
whereupon Cricket threw himself on his side. I managed to 
escape injury by landing away from his midriff. 

After getting both myself and the little rascal quieted 
down, I again swung onto his back holding on to my rifle and the 
saddle for dear life. That evening. Cricket was a runaway, 
oblivious to either my commands or use or reins. We arrived 
home in record time ; I never had a chance to insert my right foot 
into the stirrup. 

That ended my days of trapping-a pursuit that I would 
today frown upon. Perhaps all my trials and tribulations on 
that brief December afternoon could be chalked up to poetic 
justice. Cruelty can often backfire upon the aggressor. 



ENCOUNTERS WITH SNAKES 

Glenna Lamb 

In Green and Scott counties, where I grew up, the 
beautiful Illinois River bluffs stretch from Winchester to Hill view 
and beyond. At intervals, there are long lines of rock cliffs 
outlining the broad expanse of fertile river valley. The Frank 
Howard family farm was in the hills back of the cliffs in Greene 
County. It was all beautiful to me, even the small frame house 
that was our home. But there were dangers to be aware of. 

There were rattlesnakes in the hills and bluffs. I have 
heard my parents tell about a time, shortly after they moved 
there, when my oldest brother, George, went to the door one 
morning to empty the dirt out of his shoes before putting them 
on. He dropped down on one knee, and was emptying the dirt, 
when he saw a small snake behind the door. It turned out to be 
a baby rattler. 

When I was around seven, my brother Earl had an 
unusual snake experience. Dad was mowing hay. Earl was 
watching, and trying to catch baby rabbits as they ran from the 
mower. He had lain down to wait for Dad to make another 
round, the length of the field and back. He got interested in 
watching insects in the grass, and propped himself up on one 
elbow. This created a space between his upper body and the 
ground. Suddenly he became aware that a snake was crawling 
through that space. Earl had the calmness and self-discipline 
to lie perfectly still until the snake had emerged from the space 
beneath his body. Of course, the last part to emerge was a string 
of rattles. I'm not sure if Earl knew it was a rattlesnake before 
he saw the rattles or not. Neither did I know what happened 
next: whether the snake rattled and coiled to strike or not. Earl 
did manage to get Dad's attention, and Dad got there and killed 
the snake. Earl kept the rattles for a souvenir, and carried them 
in his pocket for quite a long while. 

One summer evening our little dog, Trixie, bayed a 



rattlesnake in the valley between our house and the cherry 
orchard. Trixie was barking furiously; the snake's rattles were 
singing. Dad said, "There is no mistaking the sound. It is a 
rattlesnake." It was after dark, and was a serious situation that 
must be dealt with. Dad considered it to be his responsibility. 
He loaded the shotgun and took a supply of shells with him. He 
could not see the snake in the dark, so he began shooting at the 
sound. He kept shooting into the weeds until the rattling 
stopped. He had no way of knowing if he had killed the snake, 
or just shot off its rattles, so he brought Trixie and got away from 
the spot as quickly as he could. When he went back the next 
morning, the snake was dead. 

There were other kinds of snakes in the territory, some 
poisonous and some non-poisonous. Copperheads were another 
poisonous kind that were sometimes found in our community. 
I remember one summer when one was killed in a neighbor's 
field, about a half mile from our house. We felt concerned; where 
there was one, there might be others. There was one kind which 
my dad called a kissing viper, and another that he referred to as 
a spreadhead. They were both said to be poisonous. Rattle- 
snakes were the most prevalent, yet to my knowledge, the only 
ones I ever saw were the two that my dad killed. 

Among the non-poisonous varieties, black snakes were 
probably the ones that I saw the most. There were also blue 
racers, bull snakes, and of course, garter snakes. 

When I was twelve, we moved a short distance to the Jim 
Dillon farm in Scott County. It was a mile and a half southwest 
of Glasgow. The house was a half mile off the road, with a 
private road leading back to it. The fields were in the Little 
Sandy Creek valley, the pasture land in the hills that outlined 
it. It was a wonderful place for observing wildlife, snakes 
included. 

One day Mother sent me to the barn to get a basket of 
cobs for burning in the cook stove. When I opened the door to 
the crib, there was a large black snake making himself quite at 



home. At that time, I did not know that snakes befriend the 
farmer by eating insects and rodents. I thought all snakes 
should be killed if they were encroaching on your territory. This 
one was in our crib, and I wasn't about to pick up cobs in the 
same room with him. So I went out to look for something to kill 
him with. I found a good sturdy club about four feet long. Just 
the thing, I decided. When I opened the crib door again, the 
snake was crawling through a rat hole, making his get-away. 
"Oh no," I thought, "I can't let this happen!" My next act was 
totally on impulse. About a third of the snake's body was 
already through the hole. I should have let him go. Instead, I 
grabbed him by the tail, yanked him back through the hole, and 
hit him on the head. I expected it to kill him, but it only made 
him angry. I had no idea he would fight so hard for his life, or 
that he would be so hard to kill. I would have liked to just drop 
the whole thing, but with him fighting so hard, I thought I had 
no choice but to finish the job. It was a hard battle, the snake 
raring upon it's tail and striking at me, and me hitting him with 
my club. I didn't get bitten, and I finally won the battle. At last 
the snake was dead. Suddenly a loud cheer went up from behind 
me. My brothers. Earl and Carl, and a friend, Wesley Erwin, 
had been watching. I hadn't known they were anywhere 
around. They thought I was a heroine. I didn't want to talk 
aboutit. I was tired, and glad it was over. I filled the basket with 
cobs and took them in to Mother. 

One Sunday afternoon I had nothing to do, so I decided 
to go wading in the creek. I walked across the cornfield, left my 
shoes on the bank, and stepped into the water. I kept wading 
downstream until I was probably a mile from where I had 
started. It was in a particularly cool, woodsy place, and one side 
of the creek had a bank with weeds growing on it. I saw a snake 
lying still in the weeds. I picked up a pebble and tossed it at him. 
Instead of slithering away, as I had thought he would, he raised 
his head and hissed at me. I picked up another rock and threw 
it at him, thinking that would make him run, but he stood his 



ground and hissed louder. I considered him to be my enemy, so 
I kept on tossing rocks at him, and he kept getting madder and 
madder. He spread his head, and kept hissing loudly, but he 
also began thrashing about, raring up on his tail and striking in 
my direction. The creek, about four feet wide at that point, was 
between him and me, but he was putting on such a frightening 
exhibition that I was very scared. I feared he might jump across 
the creek and attack me. I retreated upstream as fast as I could, 
and didn't stop until I was back at the place where I had left my 
shoes. In my mind, there was no doubt but that he was either 
a spreadhead or a hissing viper, and that I had been very close 
to being bitten. I'll never know what kind he really was, but I 
definitely know one thing: that was the last time I ever teased 
a snake. 

Whenever anyone in the neighborhood killed a rattle- 
snake or a copperhead, the news spread fast, both as a warning 
and as good tidings. It refreshed people's awareness that 
dangerous snakes were around, and that to be bitten by one 
could be fatal . It was good news that one of our common enemies 
had been destroyed. 



At first, they were kept in a large chicken coop and as 
they grew were put in a chicken wire pen with a covered top. 
They were never "pets," always snarling and spitting. They 
would lacerate your hand if you offered food in it as we soon 
learned. They would never rub against you for affection as a dog 
or cat would. 

As they grew older, they found many ways to escape, 
squeezing out between fence and top or digging out under the 
fence. They became expert at this, but they always came back. 

As they stayed in the wild longer and longer, they only 
returned to raid the chicken house. After several such forays, 
our chicken flock decreased measurably, so my dad declared 
war on the invaders. They had to be destroyed! 

I wept when I heard this and I think my brothers, Sam 
and Charlie, did, too, secretly. But the lovely red foxes were 
killed and their pelts were made into Daniel Boone caps with 
the tails, or "brushes" as fox tails are called, hanging down the 
back. I never saw my brothers wear the caps. I doubt they ever 
did. 

Some years ago my husband and I were driving in the 
country and saw a red fox dead beside the road. I got out of the 
car and stood beside him and cried for him and for the little foxes 
of my childhood. 



THE FOXES OF MY CHILDHOOD 

Maxine Hawkinson 



When I was a child, the youngest of eight, my two 
brothers found a dead mother fox and went to look for her 
babies. They found two crying baby red foxes in a cave nearby 
and brought them home to raise. Those young red foxes were 
the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen. They were so bright 
and graceful and new minted looking. I loved them from the 
first, though they were snarly and fierce, fighting each other 
over food. 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH BATS 

James B. Jackson 

Bats have always fascinated me. (If man were truly to 
fly, wouldn't he have to be built something like a bat?) I still love 
to see tiny brown bats at twilight feeding on flying insects while 
it is still almost daylight. They seem scarcely larger than the 
giant silk worm moths; in fact, they have no greater wing span 



than some of the larger members of that equally interesting set 
of night flyers. 

A very early encounter happened late one fall in the 
1920s as I was prospecting for a new trap line along the Lamoine 
River just north of Macomb, Illinois. I came upon a huge white 
elm tree dead from one of our imported elm diseases. It was still 
encased in its bark which hung in a couple of great sheets ten 
or twelve feet long. I took hold of a sheet and found it quite loose 
except that it was firmly fastened at one edge. When I pulled it 
back slowly and gently I was amazed to see dozens of brown bats 
hanging to the old tree trunk, protected by the loose bark. The 
bats looked to be piled three or four deep, all clinging in a mass 
not unlike a swarm of giant bees. It was cold enough that they 
were starting their winter hibernation and my intrusion did not 
disturb them. I eased the bark back in place and on my next trip 
that way I brought a length of bailing wire to secure the bark 
enough to keep the winter wind from blowing it away. Through- 
out the fall and early winter, I checked it almost daily as I 
tended my traps and then it was forgotten until one warm May 
morning when I came that way in search of morel mushrooms 
and I checked it once again. This time I untied the wire and 
eased back the bark several inches. The bats were still there but 
no longer hibernating. They swarmed out en masse, sounding 
their high pitched sonar signals and flying away in all direc- 
tions. I replaced the bark and the wire and sat down to watch 
and to rest. Within fifteen minutes the bats were coming back 
to reenter their violated sanctuary. I counted more than a 
hundred before the main body was home and only an occasional 
flittermousecamein. Then I resumed my quest for morels. The 
next time I walked that way, two years later, the bark was still 
in tact. 

Once I came upon a well-hidden cave and returned later 
with a couple of good flashlights to explore it a bit. The passage 
way curved rather sharply some thirty yards from the entrance 
and no daylight penetrated beyond that point. Shortly beyond 



the curve the cave became two-level. A gradual slope, sort of a 
natural ramp, led off to the right and upward. Both branches 
had ten-foot ceilings and the floors were smooth. I went up the 
ramp and found myself in a large chamber much wider than the 
first part of the cave. There was a strong odor and the floor had 
a different feel, almost as if it were carpeted. When I turned my 
light on it, it was indeed carpeted-with bat dung several inches 
deep! I began to hear tiny rustling noises and when I put my 
light on the ceiling, it was covered with bats as far as I could see. 
As the light hit them, they began to drop off and fly about, 
clicking and squeaking and darting past within inches of my 
face. When I stood stock still and turned off the light, the 
activity seemed to intensify. Suddenly I felt a chill of uneasi- 
ness-fright-then sheer panic! I turned on both lights and RAN 
for the exit. The bats did not come beyond the ramp, but I ran 
until I rounded a curve and could see daylight at the mouth of 
the cave. I quickly recovered my composure and sat a long half- 
hour in the sunshine at the mouth of the cave. I felt much more 
at ease with the little copperhead snake who shared that sunny 
spot with me than I did with those hundreds of furry bats 
swooping about my head in the dark, dank recesses of the 
limestone cave. 



FISH GRABBING 

Robert L. Brownlee 

Years ago a friend and I developed a technique for 
catching big fish without using hooks or lines: we grabbed 
them. The Edwards River was full of carp and catfish. It's a big 
stream that flows down to join the Mississippi near Seaton, 
Illinois. There the leather back carp that have just a few large 
scales grow to giant sizes, up to forty or fifty pounds. The 



101 



German carp are not much behind them. And huge catfish come 
upstream from the big river. They all lie in the holes between 
the riffles around the tree roots and drifts. In late summer the 
water is low and that's when my friend Carl and I went after 
them. We could keep the carp alive and get them to market 
where they brought a fair price. 

To catch big carp, we wore a pair of bib overalls and 
waded right in the river. The water was four, sometimes five 
feet deep. One day in August we loaded the old pick-up truck 
with gunny sacks and rags to keep the fish wet and alive. We 
got as close as possible to the river and found a long strip of good 
water with some brush and logs in it and two or three drifts. We 
caught several carp in the shallow water just with our hands. 
They would weigh four or five pounds each. But when you try 
to pick up one that weighs twelve or fifteen pounds, its a 
different story. That's the reason for the bib overalls. When you 
find a big one, you stoop over until the bib is under the water. 
Then you guide the fish in next to your chest. If you work slow 
and easy, they never get scared and will slip right in where you 
want them. Now you have your fish in your bib. You tighten the 
suspenders, grab him by the tail and walk out of the crick. He'll 
flop and squirm but he can't get away. Well, we got six or seven 
old leather backs that weighed well over twelve pounds a piece 
and a lot of four or five pounders, plus several pretty fair catfish, 
mostly blue cats. We put them in the truck and covered them 
with wet sacks and rags before we went on to the next drift. 

Then I felt around and found a big fish. When I ran my 
hand over it, I knew it was a cat because it had no scales. Up 
there we called that kind of catfish a "Hoosier." They are golden- 
brown in color and get to be huge fish. This one was lying on the 
bottom right beside a log. I hollered for Carl to get the clothes 
line rope we had in the truck and a stick or something so we 
could try to get a line through his gills. I stuck my head under 
water and tried to thread the rope through, but couldn't make 
it. The old fish was getting edgy and starting to wiggle a little 



so I let him alone awhile. Then we got a piece of wire and bent 
an eye at one end to take the clothesline. I got the wire through 
the gills and out of his mouth with no trouble. He wiggled some, 
but still didn't break loose from the bottom; just laid there like 
he was stuck down. I worked real slow and got the rope through 
his mouth. After we tied a good knot, Carl pulled and I pried 
with a board against the log. When he went, he went fast and 
furious. 

Eventually Carl and I drug him out on the bank and, 
man, he was a big fish! We were so excited we were both shaking 
and had to sit down and rest before we loaded him in the truck. 
At Carl's house we put that fish on the scales and he weighed 
forty-two pounds. Biggest fish I had ever had anything to do 
with. We took a lot of pictures and then decided to eat him. 
When we cut off the head it weighed twelve pounds. Cleaning 
it was like butchering a pig. We cut steaks like pork chops, and 
they were wonderful eating. We kept a lot of it cool for another 
day, so the neighbors could enjoy it with us. When we sold the 
other fish, we felt we were well paid for half a day's work. 

All of this happened more than seventy years ago. I have 
caught hundreds of fish since then, some larger than the 
"Hoosier," but I have never had another such thrill. 



OUR QUEST FOR THE RED SPIREA 

Lucille Ballinger 

My brother, Stanley Klaus, and I, Lucille Klaus Ballinger, 
were fortunate to inherit the love of flowers, gardens, wildflow- 
ers, and anything pertaining to nature from our wonderful 
parents, Clara and Otto Klaus. During the depression days of 
the Twenties, we were so poor, but everyone else was, too. We 
made our own fun, and never had to hunt for means of 



enjoyment, as something was always ready for us kids to do. We 
always helped in the garden, watered flowers, and helped put 
in bulbs, seeds, and plants. We loved it all. 

A nearby neighbor who sensed our love for flowers and 
shrubs, told us of a certain place in the woods, about four miles 
from our home, that had been his former boyhood home, but was 
nothing now but a wooded area. He remarked there should be 
some flowering bushes remaining if the denseness of the timber 
had not taken over. Stanley decided it would be a good idea to 
go explore a bit. After some deliberation, parental permission 
was granted. We both were elated. 

One hot, sunny May day, Stanley, ten, and I, age nine, 
started out with a spade and a gunny sack, on our trek down the 
railroad track nearby. We saw birds, animals, a snake, and 
many of nature's offerings, during our four-mile walk. The 
wildflowers were breathtaking and so thrilling. We loved every 
step we took. Finally we found the exact area, amid thorns, 
downed trees, and wilderness. We excitedly found the Red 
Spirea bush we had been told of, amid the great mass of earthy 
growth. It was in bloom and we thought it was beautiful. 

Stanley started digging with the spade we had carried so 
far, taking turns with the awkward tool. It was a real job, but 
we knew we must keep on as we still had a long way to go. The 
bush, rather large, was all in bloom; digging it up was hard, but 
we finally got it out of the ground. We bumped off all the excess 
dirt from he roots to make it lighter to carry. Now we were on 
the way back to the railroad tracks, homeward bound. 

As we were climbing the steep grade up to the tracks, 
Stanley spied some colorful wildflowers and he suggested we 
quickly pick some to take to our little ones at home. There was 
one drawback for me as we were going to have to cross the 
railroad tracks some twenty feet above the big creek below. 
Heights never did appeal to me and I quickly told him I could not 
do it. With much persuasion and the promise of his help, I gave 
in, as I often did. 



He held my hand and we made it until we got halfway 
; and I became dizzy-headed, and could go no further. We 
had a real problem. Stanley decided I could crawl instead of 
walk, and he did tell me not to look down at the water below. I 
tried but that was the only thing to see. At times I felt as if I had 
to empty my entire stomach, as I was so upset and nauseated. 

Finally, I had crawled the entire span, and I sat down 
while he slid down the side to get an armload of pretty wildflow- 
ers. All the time I waited, I was wondering how I would get back 
across the tracks. We finally crossed the trestle, he with the 
armload of pretty wildflowers, walking beside me as I crawled 
along the railroad ties. He kept reminding me not to look down. 
I did have to sit and rest several times, but finally got over it. I 
shall never forget the glorious feeling as I crossed the last 
railroad tie. I just thought he would never talk me into that 
again! He was a bit disappointed that I had not been able to pick 
my share of the lovely wildflowers. We picked up our spade and 
put the bush in the gunny sack and took off on our return trip. 
We got so tired, but had to trudge on as that sun in the west was 
going down fast. We took turns carrying the sack and the spade. 
Stanley's armload of wildflowers was getting more limp as we 
went each step. We could not imagine they could make such a 
change. About a mile and a half from home, we had to step off 
the tracks and let a long freight train go by, never thinking what 
we would have done had it come by an hour earlier. 

We trudged on and on and finally got home. Our parents 
expressed their great concern for our tardiness, but we quickly 
related our exciting afternoon experiences. Mom gasped for her 
breath at my telling of the trestle crawl. She excitedly asked 
why we had gone so far, only for me to quickly inform her it was 
Stanley's idea to get the pretty wildflowers that by now were 
nothing but a drawn-up mess. We put them in water, only to be 
disappointed-there was no change. The folks asked what we 
would have done, had a train come along, but we had no answer. 

Our flowers were a disaster, but we still had our healthy 



103 



looking bush. We put it in a tub of water, to be replanted the 
following day. Each spring after that our red spirea bush 
bloomed so beautifully and we were so very proud of it. 

In time, our little rented farm was sold and we had to 
move. Months after the new owners had moved in, Stanley and 
I begged Dad to go ask if we might have a start of our bush. After 
much deliberation, he did go, only to be told that they had 
discarded all the bushes and shrubbery. We were so sad to hear 
the news. But sixty years later, I still love to go to my storehouse 
of memories and pull this particular one out. 



CEDAR GLEN 

Dorris E. Wells 

Cedar Glen was a special joy of my teen years. How I first 
learned of that natural wild area of a small creek with limestone 
cliffs, native trees, and plants, is for the moment beyond my 
memory. I lived across the Mississippi River in Keokuk. Girl 
friends and I counted a hike to Cedar Glen to be a ten-mile round 
trip toward the G.A.A. (Girl's Athletic Association) award. 

We walked the old Keokuk bridge, pausing to marvel at 
the geode and rock crystals displayed in a window of the old toll 
house on the side of the bridge. To me, the prize of the display 
was the golden-green "hairs" of millerite crystals growing from 
a dot in transparent calcite crystals and out into open space. 
This all was exposed in solid, hard, gray limestone from a 
nearby Illinois quarry. 

After crossing the bridge into Illinois, we immediately 
followed the railroad track over a trestle and along the Warsaw, 
Illinois, tracks toward Cedar Glen. In this way we avoided the 
extra miles of the old dike road, the wooden Hamilton covered 
bridge, and the surrender of our 5? bridge receipt we had 



received at the Keokuk tollhouse. To my delight, the kindly 
tolltaker assured us that the 5(2 ticket was good as our toll for 
the return walk home. 

Before my days of hikes to Cedar Glen, these railroad 
tracks had served also as a trolley-car line between Keokuk, 
Hamilton, and Warsaw. It also made a stop at Cedar Glen for 
picnicking parties. When the trolley ceased operation, the 
picnickers ceased, leaving but a shallow well pump and a simple 
shelter to remind us of old trolley days and picnic outings. The 
earlier vehicle road, serving farmers on that river bottom 
between Hamilton and Warsaw, had been mud or limestone. 
Crossing creeks such as Crystal Glen and Cedar Glen required 
fording the streams. The stream-sides, at times following high 
water, could be rather steep for autos of the '20s and '30s. 

My love for Cedar Glen centered on the birds, trees, 
vines, brush, ferns, wildflowers, mosses, and fungi. As a teen- 
age school girl, I found challenge in trying to identify and study 
this nature, both at the Glen and along the railroad tracks. The 
geology of the area, the limestone cliffs, the fossils, and occa- 
sional geodes, also intrigued me. 

At one place the stream made a sharp hair-pin turn to 
form a limestone wall some three-feet wide. We could walk the 
top of this wall and look directly down to the creek, some twenty 
feet below on each side of us. We speculated about the creek 
water boring a hole through that narrow wall to make a "natural 
bridge" in our lifetime . Another very high cliff, perhaps 100 feet, 
had through the years become an autographing space for the 
rock-clambering young men of this area. Names or initials were 
visible, printed with charcoal , sharp stone, or a soft chalky rock. 

This Cedar Glen and other adjacent property was pur- 
chased by Dr. Alice Kibbe, and used by her in the biology classes 
she taught at Carthage, Illinois, some fifteen miles east. When 
Carthage College was moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, Dr. Kibbe 
sought for some way that the Cedar Glen property could be kept 
natural. She eventually deeded it to Western Illinois 



104 



University. That property, with added State and Conservancy 
lands, is now maintained as the "Alice Kibbe Life Sciences 
Station." 

I was heartbroken and irate when a "No Trespassing" 
sign first appeared at "my" access to Cedar Glen. Now I realize 
what a good deal that was. Now a Bald Eagle roosting area is 
protected through the winter months. Known as a conservation 
area, Cedar Glen is now much safer from vandals and careless 
hikers. Visitors are asked to register with the ranger, and to 
abide by certain rules. 

Springtime favors the area with dutchman's britches, 
squirrel-corn, spring-beauties, varieties of violets, hare-bells, 
blue bells, wild pansies, and crimson-cup fungi. In early spring, 
certain hills are brittle wdth grey-green reindeer moss (lichen), 
or bright with vivid green moss. Creek water teems with frogs, 



tadpoles, and occasional minnows. Wild bees buzz in and out of 
their hollow tree hive. 

My fondest memory -of the many of Cedar Glen-was the 
time that as a teenager 1 was approached by Dr. Clyde Ehinger, 
a noted bird and nature authority from Keokuk. He was at 
Cedar Glen with his boy's bird club; 1 was there with two or three 
girl friends. Dr. Ehinger seemed to know of, and trust me. He 
took me aside to show me a very rare "walking fern." He 
explained that the name was for the plant's ability to root a new 
plant where the long lance-shaped leaf rested a tip on moist 
fertile soil. Since the plant was rare in this area, he trusted me 
to keep it and the location a secret. I felt highly honored, and 
I told no one. But, alas it was so rare that it is now gone from 
Cedar Glen! 














osM smo^ 



VI ^arm L^ife Years c^go 



FARM LIFE YEARS AGO 

Before the technological revolution, America was prima- 
rily an agrarian society. Farming was the nation's primary 
business, and it emerged as a romantic movement that was a 
cornerstone in the building of our nation. It was an honorable 
life built on the love of the earth, the work ethic, a sense of 
serving others, self-reliance, and concern for the family unit. It 
both reflected and imbued an admirable consensus morality 
and a way of life that had broad appeal. 

Writer Jessee Stuart had one of his protagonists indi- 
cate, "So many of the people who worked, farmed, thought, and 
believed in a way of livin are gone. . . . We'll go to new ground 
where we can raise what we eat and eat what we raise from the 
good earth. It'll give us strength. It always has." 

This enormous strength and affection is reflected again 
and again in literature. The deep love for farming, in an almost 
mystical manner, represents uJtimate commitment, dedica- 
tion, and romantic reverie. In Farm Boy, a farmer submitted, 

I heard someone once say that Americans love 
the land like they love their own skin, and they 
love work in the same way. I think that's one of 
the things ofbeing a farmer. Enjoy farming. You 
love the land-to plant things and to see them 
grow, and you enjoy the work that goes with it. 
That's farming. I think any farmer loves the 
land. I don't think you would ever make a good 
farmer unless you enjoyed doing it or working 
with it. I don't think I'd care to do anything else. 

His wife added: "The land is like a child. Yes. And you grow 
with it. It's like a revolving thing. As a child you grow up with 
the land it takes care of you, and then one day you plant and it 
grows as a child does, and you take care of it." 



Unfortunately, though, this enormous love affair with 
farming involves far fewer people each year. In 1820, over 
seventy percent of Americans were involved, in one way or 
another, with agriculture. In 1940, the percentage fell to under 
eighteen per cent, and in 1985 fewer than three percent earned 
their living in farming. Something of intrinsic value has been 
lost, and many consider the rediscovery crucial to the rebuilding 
of America. What happened on the farms in this nation in the 
era before the ending of World War II is worthy of consummate 
examination. At the very best, there may be important answers 
to America's most grave and pressing problems and a recasting 
of consensus values-what Myrdal identified as the secular hope 
of mankind. At the least, there is the explanation of a remark- 
able, romantic era in American history. 

The memoirs included in this chapter brilliantly deal 
with farm life and allow the reader an inside look at a way of life 
that was very special. Overwhelmingly in the memoirs the 
major theme is love for family-the lovely and enduring impor- 
tance of the family. At the same time, there is a comprehensive 
family-centered view of life in the rural areas. 

Margaret DeDecker provides a compelling view of life on 
the farm, particularly of the difficulty of her Belgian ethnic 
family in the enterprise. Speaking of hardship, Margaret 
Reynolds shares an in-depth vignette of the farm privy and the 
anguish that she and her siblings suffered when a relative 
played the practical joke of feeding Ex-Lax to them claiming it 
was candy. 

Technology, of course, profoundly changed farming. 
Ralph Eaton shared the poultry business in which his family 
was involved. Slow to accept change, his father eventually used 
the incubator — but the poultry business for small farmers was 
destroyed by the new ways. Mildred Seger, in a remarkable 
memoir about farm life, considers the difficulty her father 
suffered in adjusting to the new technology. 

And the farmers had to overcome hardships. To earn 



extra income, Florence Eckhardt's parents worked with her on 
making a strawberry patch a profitable endeavor. Helen Rilling 
affectionately tells how she loved the homemade toys that her 
father made for her because there was not cash to spend on such 
things. Evelyn Wittier charmingly shares her experiences in 
canning to stretch dollars-and can she did, one year canning 
1,000 jars of food. Mary Conlan explains the extreme difficulty 
that the 1929 depression and bad weather had on her father's 
farming. A resourceful man, he began raising horses to succeed, 
and his daughter shares her love for both the horses and her 
father. Ivan Pratt explains the chicken stealing that farmers 



faced, and shares an incident of attempted thievery on the 
family farm. 

Sending stock to market was an important, demanding, 
and sometimes troublesome task. Both Elizabeth Haines and 
Donald Norris explain the joys and trials of the endeavor. 

A lovely portrait of farming emerges from the memoirs. 
To be sure, they speak of hardships, but they also show love. 
The writers demonstrate a profound joy in their rural heritage. 
And this speaks very loudly to a time when so many of the assets 
the writers extol are lost. Perhaps it is time, and well past, to 
look backward-even to the rural areas and to farming. 



Alfred J. Lindsey 



109 



THE SILVER THREADS AMONG THE GOLD 

Mary J. Conlan 

I was born on a farm and my parents owned three farms, 
a grain elevator, and several businesses, but in 1929 during the 
stock market crash I saw them lose a lot. My father, who always 
seemed to have an inner strength, came back from adversity 
with the drive and ability to make money and provide for the 
family. He experienced failure and still managed to keep calm 
and active. 

When the swdrling, muddy waters of swollen Dry Run 
Creek surged over the cornland of Pleasant Valley Farm for the 
third consecutive year, my father vowed he would never plant 
another row of corn. With that in mind, he grimly set about 
scraping off the mud from his eighty acres of bottom land with 
but one determined goal in view. 

When other more fortunate farmers who lived on top of 
the hill far from the threat of the mighty floods would offer him 
sympathy, he, very mysteriously, told them that he aimed to 
raise a crop that would bring good money every year, floods or 
not! You can imagine everyone's surprise when, out of all the 
wreckage of the damaging overflow waters, there finally emerged 
a beautiful half-mile race track with the comers graded to a fine 
degree for fast-traveling trotters and pacers-to-be. 

What had started out as a hobby several years before 
with my father now turned out a full-fledged business: raising 
and training standardbred race horses. 

My earliest recollections are of driving a fast hobbled 
pacer around that track in the early hours of the morning. What 
a thrill it is to drive an eager colt that is being taught to travel 
at a high speed! I had a very small part in the actual training 
of these fine race horses. The stable man. Earl Andrews, very 
generously allowed me to drive them on the exercise cart and 
assist in their grooming. I walked many around the cooling 
circle outside the stables as the hot, foam-covered horses 



relaxed and got back to normal after a heat. 

Never will I forget the look of great pride on my father's 
face one hot June morning when Lady Jane Axworthy, tired and 
exhausted after a long anxious night in a noisy thunderstorm, 
presented a sturdy chestnut sorrel son to the Pleasant Valley 
Farm. This tiny foal, with his golden coat, white mane and tail, 
and four flashing white stockings, completely stole our hearts. 

My father affectionately named him "Silver Threads 
among the Gold," and my mother rather tartly remarked that 
there would probably be many silver threads in her hair before 
the colt brought us any money. I wasn't interested in money, 
though. I only waited for the chance to slip out the kitchen door 
with a palm moistened with sugar, calling to Silver Threads to 
join me. It wasn't long before he would raise his head from the 
velvet carpet of grass where he was grazing with his ears tilting 
in my direction. I would call to him and, assured of a treat 
coming, he would produce his best colt nicker and race to meet 
me. 

Silver did a lot of growing that summer, and we took his 
first photograph when he was five months old. He was a truly 
photogenic colt, looking very handsome from every angle. The 
most beautiful quality he possessed, though, was sweetness of 
disposition. I can't remember that he ever kicked out in 
defiance to an order. When training sessions ended and the 
halter was removed, he lovingly rubbed his head against my 
shoulder and almost demanded affection. 

My job, when I came home from school, was to look after 
Silver Threads. This meant to water him, provide fresh straw 
for his stall, and watch him in the exercise lot so he kept out of 
trouble. In early April when I arrived at the stables one 
afternoon, I found Earl Andrews hitching Silver Threads to the 
driving sulky. When all was ready, I was astonished to hear my 
father call out to me to get ready to drive Silver Threads over to 
the track. 

He said, "You halter-broke him: you know him and he 



no 



knows you. You should be the first to drive him in the harness." 
I climbed aboard the sulky and spoke to Silver softly. 
Never seeming to mind the harness on him or the extra weight 
of the cart behind, Silver Threads slowly walked along the 
springy turf of the track. I urged him into a little pace that soon 
picked up momentum until we were traveling around that half- 
mile like veteran racers. My father declared he was a natural 
pacer and with the proper training and guidance would be a real 
two-minute race horse. He said that I was a good handler wdth 
excellent hands, and I knew that he meant it because he did not 
give praise idly. My father gave me a lot of self-confidence and 
self-esteem. 

Although I knew we couldn't keep all the horses we 
raised, it was a surprise, and not a pleasant one, on my return 
from school in early May, to find a trailer truck standing in the 
loading arena. A shiver of apprehension crept over me and, 
approaching the big van with almost dread, I peered through 
the corral bars at the loading platform. There, standing with his 
ears pointed at me, was Silver Threads. Without asking, I knew 
he was on his way and would be going out of my life in a few 
seconds. 

We raised and trained many horses during my growing 
up on the horse farm, and my father taught me how to treat and 
handle animals with care and love. He was firm but sincere in 
his desire to make them develop and be as great as they could 
be. 



CANNING 
Evelyn Witter 

When Bill and Pop went to a farm sale late in the fall of 
the first year we were farming, I didn't know it but that was the 
day I was to begin home canning of foods in a big way. 

They came home beaming. "Guess what we bought?" 
BUI asked. 

"You'd never guess," Pop cut in. 

"Well, what?" I asked, not guessing that their purchase 
was going to affect me so drastically. 

"A half of a beef," they said almost simultaneously. 

"Why we couldn't eat all that meat," I laughed with a 
nonchalance that clearly indicated my ignorance of what my 
part was to be. 

"We will eat it over a period of a year," Bill was putting 
on his tactful tone of voice that rang a warning note in my ears. 

"Sure," Pop said, "If you can it, it will keep indefinitely." 

"Can a half of a beef?" I repeated unbelievingly. Looking 
at the two of them so proud of their ability to supply a good table 
at a minimum of cost and so confident in my ability to can the 
meat, I didn't have the heart to tell them what I thought. I was 
thinking it was a daring undertaking for one who had never 
canned anything at all and that it was a lot of money to spend 
when the beef might prove to be a toted waste if it were not 
handled correctly. But they had such faith in my ability. They 
didn't even seem to entertain a shred of thought that maybe I 
couldn't do it. 

So I decided to can a half of beef It looked like a herd 
rather than a half when Pop and Bill carried it in and laid it on 
the kitchen table. It eclipsed the table, draped all around the 
sides. "Wow!" I managed to say out of the dryness of my throat. 

I grabbed a wrap and got into the Chevy and into the 
Home Bureau Office before I had a chance to scare myself out 
of a job. Mrs. Wellman gave me a government bulletin on meat 



canning and advised me to buy a pressure cooker since that was 
the only way the government recommended the canning of 
certain things, especially meat, and then she gave me another 
bulletin on pressure cookers. 

It was good to have credit. I came home with the 
bulletins, pressure cooker, and some canning jars and lids. 

I read and read. I read to digest. And as I read, I mused 
to myself, "Huh, if I'd studied as conscientiously as this in school 
maybe I'd have made an A in that course in Elizabethan 
Dramatists instead of a C." 

But, of course, I hadn't had the impetus of impending 
disaster then, like the warning story Mrs. Wellman had told me 
about the pressure cooker. She had said, "There was a woman 
in the country who hadn't studied the directions for using a 
pressure cooker, and when she went to take her vegetables out 
she didn't let the pressure go down first. She unscrewed the lid 
right after the processing time, and the big volume of pressure 
that had accumulated in the cooker forced the lid off when the 
screws were loosened. The heavy lid hit her in the chin knocking 
out two teeth. The lid went to the ceiling and when it came 
down, it fell on her head. When her husband came in, he found 
her knocked out on the kitchen floor, and there was no way of 
knowing how long she had been there." 

I read the directions to Bill when he came in, and he re- 
read them aloud. Then we went to work. We cut up the meat 
in sizeable chunks, sterilized the jars, browned the meat in big 
pans, packed them with gravy into jars, and took turns most of 
the night watching that the pressure gauge stayed at fifteen 
pounds. 

I continued alone for the next two days and had forty 
quarts of canned beef. I lined the jars up in the kitchen and 
enjoyed the display. That, I told myself, was a gratifying line- 
up if I ever saw one. We waited anxiously for weeks to see if 
there would be any sign of spoilage. But we had read well. The 
meat kept. 



Realizing from the meat canning that anyone can can, if 
they have good directions and read carefully, the garden veg- 
etables didn't frighten me a bit. Another government bulletin 
from the Home Bureau Office and a practical demonstration 
which the state put on in this vicinity gave me added confidence. 

The spinach was the oddest vegetable I had to work with. 
Jim brought in several bushels of it and I thought I'd have a lot, 
so I washed up two dozen jars, but after I wilted the stuff 
according to the directions, it turned out that all that spinach 
made only eight pints. 

Mom told me that I had better learn to make preserves 
because men loved them so. She came out one day and gave me 
the lowdown on her delicious tomato preserves. She showed me 
how she scalded them and then removed the seeds. How she 
cooked them down and then added cup for cup of sugar and let 
them simmer slowly until they were thick and yummy. She 
figured that we'd need ajar a day, so that meant three hundred 
sixty-five jars plus a couple of dozen or more for extra men and 
company. Four hundred jars of jellies and jams were stored 
away that year and for every year after that until wartime sugar 
shortages made it impossible. 

The tomato preserves have always been tops. Well, 
tomatoes are a wonderful fruit. Besides being so rich in Vitamin 
C , their various uses make an interesting table the year around. 
I've canned lots of them. 

One day the third year we were on the farm, the men 
brought in four more bushels of garden tomatoes just as I sealed 
the lid on the hundred and tenth quart! 

"We'll be glad to have them next winter," Bill apologized, 
"if you can stand any more canning." 

"Everything will be put up," I reassured him as he left me 
to "do something" with them all. Privately, I was beginning to 
wonder if I would ever see the end of them. 

Juice was what I wanted this time, but how to get it? 
Would it be best to push them-four bushels through a 



colander — or to put them in a flour sack and wring the juice out 
by hand? Just thinking about that much work made me weary. 

"Now if my hands were a couple of rollers," I day- 
dreamed, "I could just roll them over the sack of tomatoes and 
extract the juice in one easy operation." 

Rollers? Why . . . the very rollers I needed were on the 
washing machine. 

But before I grew too enthusiastic over my idea, I wanted 
to make sure that using the vmnger for making tomato juice 
would not injure it in any way. First, I called my hardware 
dealer and asked his advice. He assured me that using the 
wringer in this way could not damage it if I did not force it. He 
also told me that he had hand wringers that would serve if I 
were still dubious about using my electric one. 

This assurance was all I needed to start my big scale 
canning. I carefully scoured the wash machine, wringer, tubs, 
and boiler. I washed and scalded the fruit jars and turned them 
upside down. Next, I gave the tomatoes a cold water bath in the 
laundry tubs. The tomatoes were cut into small pieces, after all 
the blemishes had been removed. Into the wash boiler they 
went, where they cooked until they swam in their own juice — 
yes, all four bushels. 

The wash machine had been made ready by a hard 
scrubbing, by removing the agitator, and by fitting a flour sack 
into the machine. (The sack was held open by fastening its outer 
edges to the machine with clothespins.) Then, I transferred the 
cooked tomatoes from the boiler into the sack, tied it with a 
heavy cord, placed one comer in the loosened wringer, and 
presto . . . the sack started through the wringer, and the tomato 
juice poured freely into the wash machine! 

I opened the spigot, caught the juice in the wash boiler, 
filled my sterilized jars (adding one teaspoon salt per quart), 
ran the jars through the pressure cooker at ten pounds pressure 
for five minutes, and in what seemed no time at all had fifty 
quarts of high quality tomato juice all ready to store away! 



When two more bushels of tomatoes came into the 
kitchen the next day, and Bill said with another apologetic 
smile, "This garden is a lot of work for you," I said, "Oh, bring in 
all you can. I'll just take the tomatoes through the wringer." 

I believe I've canned everything that was cannable. And 
everything has come to good stead. One year when we had 
threshers, my versatility in canning saved the day. 

My mother was helping me, and we divided the job as we 
had learned was the systematic way to do. Mother had charge 
of the meat and desserts. It was roast beef again that year and 
I bought the usual twenty pounds. For roasting convenience, 
the butcher had cut it into two ten-pound roasts. When the first 
roast had been consumed by the men, I dashed into the kitchen 
with the empty platter. 

"More meat!" I ordered. 

"More meat?" Mother repeated looking into the empty 
roaster. "Why, that's all there is." 

"Can't be," I dithered and looked into the ice box. Sure 
enough there was the second roast. Mother hadn't even seen it 
and if she had, she would not have thought of roasting that one 
too, having the Chicago viewpoint on eating which I had long 
since put into the discard. 

The situation was not lost. I had canned chicken. The 
fall before, wholesale poultry prices had been so low that Bill 
and I had figured that we could eat chicken more reasonably 
than we could hamburger at the prevailing prices, so we had 
canned the surplus poultry according to directions. 

So the crisis of the threshers' dinner was averted. I went 
down to the cellar, took two quarts of chicken off the neatly lined 
shelves, reheated it, and before the men had time to notice the 
lack of the main course too much there was a platter of golden 
brown chicken all tender and hot, ready for their consumption. 

"Boy, this is some swell meal," one thresher remarked. 
"Roast beef and chicken!" 

I smiled sweetly at the compliment and secretly vowed 



that I would always have some canned meat or poultry on hand 
to meet culinary emergencies that seem always to be arising on 
the farm. 

The year before the baby was bom, Bill and I counted 
nine hundred ninety-five jars of canned food that we had stored 
in the cellar that summer. I hurried to can five more jars of 
apple butter so that forever after I could brag honestly, "One 
year I canned one thousand jars of food!" 

During World War II, rationing was no problem except 
that many city friends knew of our inexhaustible cellar and in 
blue-and-red point desperation forced themselves to drop out 
about mealtime. When it seemed that we were having more and 
more extras to feed, I kept track of the company and the extra 
meals we served. It amounted to four hundred and ten extra 
meals a year. So we needed an inexhaustible cellar! 



TOYS MADE THE KID 

Helen E. Rilling 

Kids, when they can, live in a world of play, and that 
means a world of toys. A long time ago there were few toys to 
play with. Most families could not afford to buy playthings. 
There were tricycles, bicycles, sleds, and fancy dolls for those 
who couJd afford them. But the lucky kids were the ones who 
invented, built, and enjoyed toys of their own making. Our 
family fit into that group. Blessed with a set of inventive 
parents, we made, made do, and enjoyed the happiest of child- 
hoods. 

In the winters we played on the warm floor back of the 
heating stove. We surveyed our world of make believe while we 
ate bowls of snow ice cream. We were farm people from eastern 
Morgan County, and animals were a big part of our lives. We 



carefully preserved the cardboard backs from our Red Indian 
writing tablets. Father was great at cutting out most any 
animal. We bent their legs each way to make them stand up. 
Each of us had a farm complete with horses, cows, pigs, sheep, 
and chickens. For wagons we used match boxes. There were big 
and little boxes that served our purpose very well. On the slick 
linoleum floor we didn't need wheels as they slid along hitched 
to our horses with a bit of twine formed into a set of harness. 

We enjoyed the snows of winter with our old homemade, 
wooden-runner sled father made out of scraps of lumber. It 
couldn't be steered but a pile up at the bottom of the hill was the 
fun part of sledding. Mostly we pilfered father's shiny grain 
scoops from bins and corn cribs. These made wonderful tobog- 
gans. 

On one wall was a piece of black oilcloth. It was our 
blackboard. We all learned to draw on it and worked arithmetic 
problems there, playing school by the hour on bad-weather 
days. We thought it was a game, but mother was clever and we 
learned spelling, reading, and art under her watchful eyes. 

We would beg mother to save her wooden spools. We 
used a long and short piece of matchstick. By putting a rubber 
band through the spool and turning the long matchstick until it 
was twisted tight we had a self-propelled toy and enjoyed 
exciting races across the room. 

Our father was very good at carving toys from a piece of 
wood. He'd sit by the stove and carve out the neatest guns. He 
liked to carve horses, too. In the summer he carved whistles out 
of willow stems. We had tree creeks, so there were plenty of 
wallows to choose from. We'd toot the whistles for days and each 
child's had a different tone. When the weather warmed up, 
father helped us make kites. We'd gather around the big dining 
table. Father would bring in a large wooden shingle. He'd 
carefully slit it into narrow strips and fasten them together into 
a frame. We'd get impatient sometimes waiting for the home- 
made flour paste that glued the paper to the frame to dry. Rags 



were tied in strips for tail. We always begged mother for bright 
rags for those tails. We'd hunt up the ball of twine and head for 
the pasture. Against the blue skies, our homemade kites were 
beautiful to our eyes. 

There was one cutting job that all of us took part in. We 
would fold newspapers many times and then cut out dolls, 
leaving them attached at the hands. These strings of dolls were 
hung all across the rooms. Some were very fancy with curls in 
their hair and shoes on their feet. We especially liked to have 
a pretty piece of colored paper to make a string of dolls out of, 
but mostly we had to be happy with newspaper dolls. 

When the spring rains came and the creeks ran full, we 
made water wheels; a frame was made out of old lumber and 
fastened to the creek bank by driving sticks deep into the sod. 
The wheels were put on a shaft and carefully fastened to the side 
so the water just hit the ends of the blades. They turned and 
turned as the water rushed along until it quit raining and the 
creek went down. If we didn't take our wheels up each time, the 
horses and cows would break them to pieces when they crossed 
the creeks. 

We girls had a little black iron cookstove we pretended 
to cook on. For our pans and dishes we used the round metal lids 
that came from cocoa and spice cans. A long time ago there was 
a candy that came in little fluted pans and had a tiny spoon with 
it. We saved all these for doll dishes. Our dolls were cupies 
made of celluloid. They could be won at fairs and carnivals or 
purchased at a 5 & 100 store for 10«l or 25c, depending on 
whether they had molded or real hair. They were about five 
inches tall and only the arms moved. The elastic that held the 
arms to the body soon gave out and we had mostly armless dolls. 

Another game we girls enjoyed was to cut the green moss 
that grew on the north side of our big maple trees into shapes 
of furniture. Then we furnished our houses between the big 
roots of the trees. We made tables, chairs, beds, stoves, daven- 
ports, and cupboards out of the moss. If it was kept moist the 



houses lasted for days. 

If we needed a jump rope, we just mosied down to the 
shop that was in the end of an old railroad car and cut a piece 
of haymow rope. We used this rope for lariats when we played 
rodeo. We had a beautiful white Shetland pony named Dixie. 
There were other horses we could ride if we wanted to put on a 
rodeo or just race along our dusty lane. Another game was to 
nail spools to the many sheds about the yard and string binder 
twine between them like a pulley. It took some skill to keep the 
spools turning as we raced between them, giving a sharp pull as 
we raced on by. 

Father was the greatest stilt maker of all time. At least 
we thought so. He used long two by fours and cut them in 
lengths to fit each child. He nailed a short piece on for a step 
about halfway up. Then he nailed on a piece of old harness 
leather. Tugs made the best holders to keep our feet on the 
steps. We walked about the yard high in the air. It took lots of 
practice to learn how to mount the stilts without falling over. 
We had many bruises before mastering those stilts. 

There was a junk pile in one of the washed out ditches in 
the pasture. Junk from Alexander was hauled out there and 
used to stop erosion. We found many broken toys and wheels 
that served quite well in making our own homemade versions. 
One was a car complete with a buzzing motor. We'd find a wheel 
and put it on a stick . Then we pounded the stick into the ground 
and found an old box or bucket to sit on. For the motor we'd catch 
bumble bees in a jar. There we'd sit twisting the wheel as we 
rode along. Every once in awhile we would kick the jar to make 
the bees buzz. We also found old hubs from wagon wheels. 
Using a lathe, we nailed a cross piece at the bottom. A curled 
stave from a keg worked very well. We used this to roll the hoop 
along, guiding it into circles and over bumps. We could roll it 
along our lane a mile or more without it falling over. 

But, the most fascinating game for us was our corn-cob 
horses. We made them by cutting off the small end for horses 



115 



and the big end for mules. We wove intricate harness from 
bindertwine for the harness. Holding the teams of two or four 
horses in front of us we drove them to dozens of imaginary 
places. We cut the cobs in other ways to make cows, sheep, and 
hogs. A whole play farm could be built around a few pretty com 
cobs. At corn shelling season we searched other farms for 
additions to our stables. We had such fun naming all the horses. 
When I visit the area east of Alexander where I grew up, 
I can still hear the laughter of happy children floating across the 
fields and timbers. We left our mark on the prairie and it left 
us with precious memories of a wonderful childhood living on 
the farm. 



A STRAWBERRY PATCH 

Florence Ehrhardt 

My parents raised seven children on a forty-acre Adams 
County farm, twenty acres of which were planted with fruit 
trees. Apples, peaches, and pears were their main crop and 
were ready for market in late summer and autumn. To provide 
income for the family earlier in the year, my folks planted 
earlier-maturing crops such as cabbage, pickles, potatoes, and 
strawberries. Strawberries seemed to be the most successful of 
these early-maturing crops. 

I know that my parents needed the income from these 
extra crops, but they also had a fetish about keeping the kids 
busy. An awful lot ofwork goes into raising strawberries. The 
plants are planted in the spring and are taken care of for a whole 
year before a crop is produced. They must be carefully tended 
to keep the weeds out of the patch without disturbing the young 
plants on the end of the runners from the parent plant. My 
parents depended on child labor for this work. Their pet saying 
was that kids didn't need to stoop as far as a grownup does to 



reach the ground to pull those weeds. 

In autumn, the whole patch was covered with a thick 
layer of carefully spread straw. When the next spring came, and 
those beautiful berries were getting ripe, we forgot all about the 
work of the previous summer. We needed to get up very early 
in the morning to get started with the berry picking. Later in 
the day the sun was too hot. Pickers are near the ground with 
the heat reflecting from the straw. No breeze was felt there. 
Suntan was not in fashion then. We all wore straw hats, long 
sleeve shirts, and long pants. 

We had lots of fun in the berry patch. The young folks 
from the whole neighborhood came to help. The wages for 
picking berries were from 1/2(2 a quart to 2c a quart depending 
on picking conditions. Early in the season, when ripe berries 
were scattered, and late in the season when berries were 
smaller, the price for picking was the best. 

Each picker was saving his money to buy something 
special. My neighbor girl saved money to get her first perma- 
nent wave. It cost her three dollars, and it took most of the 
picking season to earn that much money. One of my brothers 
spent more time complaining about other people's work than 
trying to improve his own. Whenever he saw someone do 
something that he could run to Pop and tattle about, he lost no 
time in doing just that. Strawberry patches do not come 
equipped with Scotties Potties, so a nearby ditch was used to 
meet our needs. One day this brother came back from the ditch 
with a shiny dime. It didn't take long for the pickers to make up 
a jingle about that. 

Snitch, snitch, 

Fell in a ditch. 

Found a dime, 

And thought he was rich. 

About nine o'clock each morning. Pop took the first 
picked berries to the stores in Quincy. About eleven o'clock, he 
went with a second load. I can remember times when he would 



116 



have to bring some berries back home. He couldn't sell them at 
any price. On those days, we children needed to get busy to help 
can those berries. Believe me, I was glad when Pop came home 
with an empty truck. However, on a snowy winter day, I was 
equally glad when we could have some canned strawberries 
with bread or pancakes. Strawberry preserves were usually 
made from the smaller, end-of-the-season berries, and kept for 
special occasions. 

Almost everyday, for over two weeks, we had fresh 
strawberry homemade-biscuit-dough shortcake. Mother baked 
a large biscuit in an oversize pie dish. While it was still hot, she 
sliced it crosswise and poured sweetened dark red mashed 
strawberries on the bottom portion. Carefully turning over the 
top part to make a second layer, she added more strawberries. 
She then cut it in pie-shaped portions. I remember my brothers 
turning the dish around four or five times looking for the biggest 
piece, while all the rest of us waited impatiently. No one 
worried about calories. How times have changed! 



TECHNOLOGY COMES TO THE FAKM 

Mildred M. Seger 

In the late 1930s our rural society was poised on the 
brink of an ocean of change. The dawn of the age of technology 
was approaching, but there were yet only a few rays of the 
coming morning of progress. 

Those rays, in our home, were our radio with its cumber- 
some batteries, and the telephone with the line wire attached to 
the large oblong box with its two round bells gleaming like big 
eyes from its dark, long face. I always fancied the long project- 
ing mouthpiece was the nose, the shelf below, its mouth, and the 
receiver hanging beside it, a single arm. The crank on the other 



side didn't count. Why those ugly old wall telephones have 
become valuable antiques, which some people use to decorate 
their homes, is more than I can understand. 

My father was farming in much the same fashion that 
his ancestors had done for hundreds of years. He was delighted 
with the "Johnson place," as he had four level fields of good black 
soil. There he could practice the method of crop rotation. One 
field was sowed in clover and timothy seed for pasture and hay. 
This was the field that was being restored to fertility by rest 
from growing corn. In the spring he would load up manure from 
the barn into the manure spreader. This was a wagon-like 
vehicle which had a pronged, rotary attachment at the back 
which threw out the manure as the wagon was pulled by the 
horses across the field. I'm not just sure of the mechanics of the 
implement, but it must have had a conveyor belt and received 
its power from the wheels of the moving vehicle. 

One field was sowed in oats. This one always had 
timothy and clover growing in it after the oats harvest, too. I'm 
not sure, but I think my father had disked last year's clover and 
timothy field and sowed the oats there in the spring. As soon as 
the oats were threshed in summer, the field became a pasture 
for the stock. The other two fields were planted for the money 
crop, corn. This was the "gold" that had lured my father and 
Uncle Lawrence to the fertile plains of Illinois prairie from their 
home in the tree-covered hills of southern Indiana. The red clay 
soil there only grew "nubbins." 

Daddy was strong and proud of his muscles. He got up 
early before dawn in the corn-shucking season and fed and 
watered the livestock by lantern light. Meanwhile, mother 
cooked a bountiful breakfast of oatmeal, salt pork, gravy and 
biscuits. Sometimes we fried potatoes left over from those she 
had boiled the day before with the "jackets" on. She fried eggs 
and made coffee, and there was always apple, plum, wild grape, 
or strawberry jelly, or maybe apple butter as well as the butter 
we had churned from the milk our cows produced. 



Just as the dawn was breaking, Daddy would arrive at 
the cornfield with his cap lapels pulled down over his ears, his 
denim jacket buttoned over his overalls and flannel shirt to 
guard against the morning chill. Later, the cap lapels would be 
reversed and the jacket abandoned as physical exertion and the 
day's temperature increased. His hands were encased in a new 
pair of canvas gloves, as he wore out a pair each day. (It's no 
wonder some glove factories began to shut down after technol- 
ogy arrived in the combelt.) Also, strapped on his hand was a 
sharp curved tool, a hook, or peg, for freeing the ears from the 
cornstalk and stripping the husks from the ear. 

The wagon had a bump board attached to one side. This 
kept the com from going over the wagon bed instead of into it. 
When my father twisted the ripe, golden ears from the stalks 
and with his hook stripped off the husks, he tossed the prize into 
the waiting receptacle without turning to look. The steady old 
farm team would move up the com row at his signal as he 
progressed up and down the field. I wish I could remember how 
many bushels he shucked each day, but I never really listened 
then or appreciated the enormous task as he related his day's 
progress to my mother. 

Some farmers were beginning to subscribe to the new 
technology. Grandpa Agan and his sons proudly showed off 
their new red Farmall tractor to us one spring. The sound of 
roaring tractor engines sputtering to life in the early spring 
mornings was beginning to be heard more frequently in our 
farming community. But my father was very conservative, and 
he wasn't sure it was right to leave the old ways. He was also 
fearful of contracting a large debt, so he fanned with his horses 
longer than most of our relatives and neighbors. 

However, in the early 1940s he yielded and bought an 
orange, steel-wheeled Allis Chalmers tractor. The age of tech- 
nology had come to the Davis farm! 



THE PRIVY AND THE GOOD OLD DAYS 

Margaret Kelley Reynolds 

"Privy" comes from the word "private," and our privy was 
anything but private. For my sister it was a handy place to take 
refuge when there were dishes to be done. It was also a handy 
place to hide when playing games. It was often occupied by a 
stray cat or dog, maybe a snake now and then, or a sparrow 
building a nest under the eaves. A few times we had a skunk as 
a very unwelcome visitor. 

Our privy was situated in the shade of a gnarled, old, 
mulberry tree, which was always filled with birds dropping 
mulberries and bird doo all over the place. A trip to the privy in 
the summertime in bare feet, even over a well-beaten path, was 
sometimes a hazardous journey. In the wintertime, it was even 
worse. We slipped and slid on the path, and sometimes had to 
shovel our way through the snow. I do believe that I've never 
known anything else as cold as the wind whistling up through 
that two-holer privy seat. It was a miracle we didn't freeze our 
bottoms. 

Our privy was a tall, four-foot-square building with a 
swinging door that fastened with an old leather strap and a nail. 
Above the door was a crescent-shaped moon design, and perched 
on top was a bird house. Inside the door was a bench-like seat, 
with two sawed out, rough edged, round holes. Hanging over a 
binder twine string on one side was an old Sears Roebuck 
Catalogue. On the other side in one comer was a broom, used 
to sweep out leaves, bird droppings, and dirt. In the other comer 
was a small, bent coal shovel set in an old, rusty tin bucket filled 
vrith white lime. When all necessary chores had been com- 
pleted, it was a GOOD IDEA to throw in a shovel of lime. This 
was supposed to keep down the odor. In the summertime, the 
privy was surrounded on three sides by hollyhocks which came 
up voluntarily every year and were beautiful when in bloom. 
The unpainted, dilapidated building didn't look too bad in the 



summer. It was a shady place to sit. But in the wintertime the 
flowers were gone, and the leaves had fallen from the mulberry 
tree and in their place was snow, ice, and icicles hanging from 
the roof. 

I shall never forget one summer when our uncle came to 
visit us. He was a bachelor and was making the Army a career. 
When he was on furlough, he always spent several days at our 
house. We were glad to see him because he usually brought us 
something tasty to eat. 

It was a hot summer day in July when our uncle came, 
and, as usual, he brought something-candy this time. We had 
it eaten long before dinner time, but we were, as usual, hungry 
again at meal time. We always had something special for dinner 
when company came. After dinner, we were all trying to get out 
of doing dishes. It was my sister's turn to wash while we dried, 
but she always managed to run for the privy when dishwashing 
time came. There she'd stay until the dishes were done. 

Well, it was the same old story! About halfway through 
the dishes she complained of a stomachache. We didn't believe 
her, but when she took off in a dead run for the privy, we could 
see she had a problem. A few minutes later, another member of 
the family ran for the privy, and, when my sister wouldn't open 
the door, he ran for the com crib. About that time, I had a 
stomach cramp, my sister wouldn't open the privy door, so I 
jerked it open. Ordinarily, we'd never go to the privy with 
anyone, but those were unusual circumstances. One thing I 
especially remember about the next hour or so was that the path 
to the privy and those two holes on the privy seat were the 
busiest places you could ever imagine. There were kids waiting 
in line to occupy the rough, round holes. When we all felt better 
and the old Sears Roebuck Catalogue was about depleted, we 
went back to the house. Our uncle was laughing so hard he 
could hardly stand up. He told our mother that in the box of 
chocolate candy he had put quite a few pieces of EX-LAX! He 
wantedtoseewhatitwoulddotous. Well! He saw all right! Our 



mother was horrified, but she tried to explain to us by saying, 
"He wouldn't have done it if he hadn't had a 'little nip' before he 
came." We didn't find out for several years what a "little nip" 
was. 

I must say that in my later years, I never had to worry 
about eating too much chocolate candy. And Ex-Lax-never! 
This all took place in the Mississippi River bottoms where I was 
bom and raised on a farm over sixty years ago; it was near New 
Canton, Illinois, in Pike County. After I was married, I thought 
I was living in the lap of luxury when we had an indoor 
bathroom with a tub and a stool, and I never once missed 
trodding the beaten path to the privy. The privy served its 
purpose in my life and was an essential part of living then, but 
to go back to the "Good Old Days"-NEVER! 



BELGIAN FARM LIFE IN ILLINOIS 

Margaret M. DeDecker 

From the lowlands near Watervliet, Belgium, and the 
watery provinces of Holland came the Flemish and the Dutch 
burgers to settle on the prairies of Illinois near Geneseo and 
Atkinson in Henry County. They created a community within 
the melting pot of other Europeans. Most of them came with 
farming and related skills and so were soon working for estab- 
lished farmers. With the conservatism of their native countries, 
many were in time able to save money to own their own farms. 

I was witness to this moderate life style. I remember my 
Dad and brother wearing bib overalls with patches, and their 
darned rockford socks were almost total darning on heels and 
toes. My dresses as a little girl were made of cotton print on the 
old treadle sewing machine. Bloomers and slips were made 
from cotton flour sacks. Our other underwear was ordered from 



119 



the Sears Roebuck Catalog, as was our one good outfit for going 
to church. 

Going to mass on Sunday was the normal thing, as most 
of the people came from Roman Catholic families. The priest 
was the advisor in all things as he was the only one with an 
education. My family joined our friends in learning the English 
language when the children went to school. Even though they 
were bom here, some of them spoke no English until they went 
to school. This was true in my family. My brother, older than 
I, went to school first and then taught me to write my name. 
When I started school, I had to learn to print my name, but at 
least I could speak English. 

Our medical care was usually taken care of at home. I 
remember cuts and wounds were miraculously healed with 
Rawleigh's Salve and bound up with soft strips of torn old 
linens. One time I stepped on a garden rake that had been left 
out in the yard. Being a puncture wound, it became infected and 
I was chugged off to town in the old Model T to see Dr. Spencer. 
My Dad was so proud of me because I didn't cry when the doctor 
had to lance the wound. My mother became the midwife among 
the Belgian families and delivered many of their babies. She 
also helped the doctor during the flu epidemic of the early 1900s. 
He teasingly told her she was too mean to get it, and she didn't 

Wonderful Belgian cooking kept everybody strong and 
healthy. The soups cooked with vegetables from the garden 
were filled with vitamins. I remember the huge round loaves of 
home baked bread as well as cakes and pies. Fresh milk from 
the cows was a special treat. Many times I helped turn the 
barrel chum to make butter and then buttermilk. 

Gardens were usually the pride of the women. Seeds 
were saved from the year before to plant peas, corn, and 
pumpkins. Potatoes were a favorite crop. And there always 
were fiowers around the vegetable gardens. 

The men had their games of rolle bolle on Sunday 
afternoons. You could hear a "hotfer domma" and everyone 



knew that the player had missed the stake with the bolle by a 
mile. The women played cards, usually bien, a game brought 
over from the old country. The kids played baseball or went to 
swim in the canal. In the winter there were house parties, and 
there usually was an accordion player for those who wanted to 
dance a polka or a mazurka. 

These people had many ethnic beliefs, such as, a kid was 
always to be right-handed. If he were going to be left-handed, 
the left hand was tied up. It seems there was a flaw in the 
intelligence if you let the child be left-handed. Another belief or 
myth that I personally experienced occured during the process 
of making fourteen-day pickles. I was told by my mother that 
I had to slice pickles in half in a thirty-gallon crock because 
"Gramma came to visit." It was believed that if she had touched 
the cucumbers when she had her period they would spoil. 

I remember the wall phone was the party line. Each 
member had a signal . Our signal was two longs and a short ring. 
To get central to call elsewhere, you had to crank the handle on 
the side until the operator answered. Then everybody shouted 
to hear each other. 

The Belgians and the Hollanders helped each other, but, 
of course, at times such as hay making and threshing they 
worked with neighbors of other ethnic backgrounds. I'm sure 
they learned much from each other. 



REAPING THE HARVEST 

Eleanor Green 

It was a beautiful morning in mid July, 193 1 , on our farm 
home near Media, Illinois, in Henderson County. The sun was 
coming up, the birds were singing, and my dad (Roy Rankin) 
was coming up the board sidewalk carrying a bucket of warm 



120 



foamy milk. The cats were at his heels, knowing he would stop 
and fill their pan. 

Mother was in the kitchen preparing a breakfast of 
potatoes, sausage, eggs, coffee, and a large kettle of oatmeal. 
She also had three pies baking in the oven for dinner. 

Dad had been working in the oat field for three days. He 
cut the oats about four inches above the ground with a binder. 
This implement was drawn by a team of horses. There was a 
long sickle across it for cutting the oats off. A canvas draper on 
rollers carried the oats up into the binder, and they were tied in 
bundles with binder twine which was on a spindle. After the 
bundles were tied, they dropped to the ground. Now it was time 
for the whole family to help. We went to the field and stood the 
bundles upright, using approximately twelve bundles to make 
a shock. Then we took two or three and laid them across the top 
of the shock to keep water out in case of rain. When we were 
finished, we had rows of shocks down the field, ready for the 
racks to pick up on threshing day. 

Jake Livermore and his son, Ivan, of Raritan, Illinois, 
owned the steam engine and separator. They went from farm 
to farm threshing the oats at harvest time. The big day was 
here! Jake and Ivan were puJling in the gate with the threshing 
machine. Dad went out to meet them and showed them where 
to spot the machine. He wanted it near the gate, so they could 
easily get loads of straw in the winter for bedding the livestock 
in the bams. 

The neighbors with racks, wagons, forks, and scoops, 
were beginning to arrive. Some were four miles from home. The 
sun had burned the dew off and it was time to start. Each rack 
had two men to pitch the bundles onto the rack, and the driver 
spread them evenly from front to back and side to side as high 
as they dared go and not tip their load over. He then drove to 
the separator which was powered by the steam engine, where 
large, wide belts turned the wheels. The bundles were pitched 
into a conveyor, and the oats came out a spout into a wagon on 



the opposite side. The straw blew out onto the ground and, 
when deep enough, my dad and Lloyd Rankin started shaping 
it into a kidney shaped stack. The chaff fell to the ground 
beneath the separator. 

As one rack emptied, another was ready to pull in and 
unload. When a wagon was full of oats, another was pulled 
under the spout, and the full load was puiled by a team of horses 
to the barn. There, two men scooped the oats into the oats bin 
through a small door on the side of the barn. 

A lot of hard work was being done, and it was getting hot 
and sultry, so perspiration was flowing freely. My job was 
"water boy." I hitched our pony to the pony cart and filled gallon 
jugs (which had been made at the Monmouth pottery) with cold 
well water and headed for the field. I went from rack to rack to 
the men at the threshing machine, giving them a drink. They 
all drank from the same jug, tipping it up and drinking. By the 
time I had made the rounds it was time to refill and go again. 

At last, dinner time came. The steam engine shut down, 
while the teams were driven in under shade trees, watered, and 
left to rest while the crew went to the house to eat. Under the 
big elm tree in our yard mother had placed four washpans, bars 
of soap, and combs, and had hung a mirror and towels on nails 
in the tree. A big tub of water was setting in the sun where it 
had warmed for them to wash with. The men took off their straw 
hats and dropped on the lawn to rest and visit while waiting 
their turn to wash up for dinner. 

Mother and my sisters had been working all morning 
preparing dinner. They were cooking on the hot cookstove 
because there was no electricity. All we had was an icebox, 
which was rather small, so a box tied on rope was lowered into 
the well with food in it to keep it cool. We also went to Media to 
the ice house and got one hundred pounds of ice, placed it in a 
tub, and covered it with carpets (rag rugs) to keep it from 
melting. A big chunk was chopped off and placed in a five-gallon 
stone jar which held our iced tea. Mother had a huge beef roast, 



mashed potatoes, gravy, lima beans, spaghetti and cheese, 
radishes, onions, pickles, cabbage slaw, homemade bread and 
butter, three kinds of pie, iced tea, and coffee. 

The men sat down at the table which was stretched 
across the dining room. They ate heartily, laughing and joking. 
When they were finished, they got up and thanked my mother 
for the good dinner, and went back under the shade tree for a few 
minutes to rest. Then they grabbed their hats and headed for 
the field. 

Now it was my turn to eat. My mother, my sisters, and 
I sat down and ate our dinner. When we were finished, we 
started clearing off the table, piling up stacks of dirty dishes and 
pans. We had no running water, and no water heater, so the 
water was heated on top of the cookstove. Having no double 
sink, people washed and rinsed dishes in big dish pans. I knew 
what was best for me, and took out of the house to avoid helping 
with those dishes. 

The steam engine was fired up, and the racks were back 
in the field. The afternoon task was underway. About5:00p.m. 
as each rack came in and unloaded, they unhitched their team, 
watered them, and led them into stalls in our barn where they 
would stay for the night to be ready for another day of work 
tomorrow. I had put straw in the stalls for bedding, filled the 
mangers with clover hay, and put com covered with oats in the 
feed boxes. 

The neighbors went to their homes to finish up the day 
by doing their chores and getting ready to come back to finish 
our oats the next day. Dad fed the hogs, milked the cows, and 
went to the house to eat supper. After supper, we lit the Aladdin 
lamp, and listened to the battery-run radio. Dad read the 
Galesburg Register Mail andthe Chicago Drovers' Journal . We 
had to read to find out the news; we hadn't heard of television. 

After the horses were checked and the chickens shut up, 
we went to bed. It must have only been 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., yet it 
seemed like only a short time when the roosters started crowing 



and I heard Dad going out the door to do the morning chores. 
Another day was underway. 

We finished threshing about 3:00 p.m. on the second day. 
The steam engine and separator pulled out and went to the next 
neighbors to set up. The crew would all be there tomorrow. 

I know it was hard work, but I believe the people all 
looked forward to working together, exchanging labor for labor, 
visiting and caring for one another, and probably most of all- 
sharing. 

I often think today as I drive in the country and see farm 
homes far apart, and large machinery operated by one man, 
what these folks are missing-those things which I hold so dear 
as memories of the past. 



HOG HAULING 

Elizabeth Harris 

The rattling, bumping sound of wagon wheels on hard 
frozen ruts of the country road jars me wide awake. I throw 
aside the woolen blankets and rise up from my soft feather bed. 
The room is black; the air is frosty; my nose feels cold. 

I hear sounds of activity downstairs; Mama and Papa 
are up. The fires are started, radiating cozy warmth from the 
kitchen range and the wood-burning heating stove. Outdoors, 
the wagon noises increase as neighbors approach from all 
directions to convene in our barn lot. 

Then I jxfnember. This is hog hauling day! 

Playful white piglets, born last spring, had frolicked in 
the meadows in the summer. Maturing, they grew fat on com 
during the fall and early winter. They are now hogs, ready to 
be sold. The brood sows will be retained in the sheds, and, as the 
seasons pass, the yearly cycle of the hog farmer will be repeated. 



122 



In 1908, among the farmers in lower Rock Island County, 
Illinois, this hauling of the hogs is a community effort-one 
phase in the prevailing habit of exchanging work with close 
neighbors for the group-oriented tasks of haying, sawing wood, 
butchering, com shelling, and castrating the pigs. 

The closest railroad terminal for shipping livestock is in 
the little town of Joy, Illinois, in Mercer County, fifteen or 
twenty miles south of our farm (which is located south of Illinois 
City, in Buffalo Prairie Township). 

By telephone. Papa has talked to a Mr. Shingledecker, 
an agent in Joy, and has arranged to have our hogs delivered at 
the railroad yards by 11 a.m. on this frigid February morning. 
There they will be loaded on the cars and shipped to the Chicago 
Stockyards, and from thence to various slaughterhouses and 
packing plants throughout the Midwest. 

The fact that these activities are necessary to the liveli- 
hood of our family is not even thought of by me. Sissy, seven 
years old, or by my six -year-old sister and bedfellow, Irene. Our 
older brothers work with Papa outdoors; our older sisters help 
Mama in the kitchen. We, too, have daily chores, but in such 
events as hog-hauling we are mere spectators. 

Irene and I leap from our bed in the darkness, shivering 
with excitement and cold. We pull off our flannel nightgowns 
and blindly don our outer clothing, laid out the night before. 
With long black stockings and high button shoes in our hands, 
we feel our way through the dark hallway to the stairway and 
descend to light and warmth below. We plop down on the warm 
floor behind the heating stove and painstakingly try to pull our 
long stockings neatly over the legs of our ankle-length long 
underwear. I reach for the button-hook on the window sill to 
speed up fastening my shoes, remembering to put it back where 
it belongs for the next user. 

Papa has eaten his breakfast, and with his kerosene 
lantern has gone to the hog lot, followed by "Old Max," our 
faithful reddish-brown shepherd dog. 



We are too engrossed in what is going on outside to think 
of eating the bowls of warm oatmeal that Mama has prepared. 
Faces pressed against the windowpane, we see shadowy figures 
in the dim lantern-light, moving about the crated wagons 
backed up to the chute that leads from hog lot to wagon bed. We 
hear the muffled shouts of the men; the barking of the dog; the 
protesting squeals of the pigs as they are prodded up the chute. 

Light streaks of early dawn are showing in the eastern 
sky by the time the six or seven wagons are loaded, lined up, and 
ready to start. Papa hurries to the house to don his heavy 
horsehide coat before climbing to the seat on the rack above the 
wagon bed. 

The other drivers are similarly dressed-some wear 
sheepskin-lined coats and all have the ear-lugs of their heavy 
caps pulled down and fastened under their chins. As we watch 
the caravan move down the driveway toward the road, the 
figures huddled on the wagon seats remind us of huge bears, 
driving away with our pigs. 

Well-shod and sure-footed, the horses pick their way 
over the sharp, icy clods of the rutted dirt road. The thermom- 
eter outside out kitchen window hovers near zero. Papa has told 
us that sometimes the men walk beside the wagons part of the 
way, flailing their arms and hugging themselves in order to 
keep warm. 

Starting out before 7:00 a.m., they will reach the rail- 
road yard at Joy before the appointed hour of 11. After 
unloading the hogs, my father and his neighbors will perhaps 
have their noon meal together in the village cafe and spend a 
sociable hour at the local pool hall before starting back in time 
to arrive home for late-afternoon chores. 

If times are hard and farm life is primitive in 1908, we 
children are not aware of it. We feel safe and secure in the love 
and care of our family. We have friends and neighbors who 
share the burdens of work when help is needed. We have warm 
clothing and plenty of good food. Radio and television are 



unheard of; electric lights are found only in cities. Our news 
comes by way of letters, telephone, telegraph, newspapers, and 
monthly magazines. 

Occasionally, in good weather, an automobile is seen on 
the country roads. We cannot even foresee that within three 
years our papa will purchase our own auto-a forerunner of 
miraculous changes yet to come-and that someday in the 
future, huge automotive trucks will move our livestock to 
market in one easy load. 



RAISING CHICKENS ON THE FARM 

Ralph Eaton 

The era that I want to wTite about on the subject of 
raising chickens is the first half of the twentieth century-from 
1900 to 1950. That period brought about many, many changes 
throughout America, and those changes touched the lives of 
everyone, whether they lived in cities, towns, or on the farms. 

It probably seems unbelievable to modem day readers 
who did not live during that period, but early in the twentieth 
century there were more people living on farms throughout the 
country than there were in the cities and towns. Most rural 
people were busily engaged in producing their own shelter, food, 
and clothing. If they were fortunate, they might manage to 
produce a little extra of something, which they could take to 
town to sell. 

When a farmer's children grew up, married, and started 
farming on their owm, it was customary for the parents to help 
the new couple get "started." Perhaps one or two horses could 
be made available, one milk cow, and one hen and a "setting" of 
eggs. 

My parents married in 1912 and settled in their farm 



home southeast of Augusta, Illinois. As was customary, my 
mother's parents provided a hen and a "setting" of eggs. The hen 
was expected literally to sit on all the eggs that her body would 
cover, which ranged between fifteen and twenty. Of course, this 
is the way that our wild birds still propogate today. The hen was 
usually happy to oblige because of her "mother instinct," so in 
three weeks the eggs turned into a flock of fluffy baby chicks. 
During those three weeks , the hen had left her nest only to drink 
and to eat a few bites of food. She carefully rolled each egg over 
with her beak twice each day in order to assure uniform 
temperature to them. Once the chicks were hatched, the 
mother hen led them from the nest and they were taught to 
forage for food. Each evening, she returned them to the nest and 
sat on them to keep them warm and safe. 

They grew rapidly, and in about four or five weeks they 
became capable of taking care of themselves. Approximately 
half of the brood would be little male "cockerels," and the other 
half would develop into little "pullet" hens. At about five or six 
weeks, the little cockerels would begin to provide the farm 
family with "chicken dinners," which were a delicious treat 
eagerly anticipated by the family. One or two cockerels would 
be allowed to grow to adulthood, as would all of the pullets, to 
expand the flock. The cockerels were necessary to fertilize the 
eggs, to make them hatchable. In this manner, a young married 
couple could expand their chicken flock so that, in three or four 
years, they could have as large a flock as they could manage. 
This depended, of course, on the available housing space, 
available feed, and available time. To care for a large flock was 
a lot of work. Also, one had to be on constant guard against 
predators. Foxes, skunks, weasels, possums, and coons would 
all kill chickens whenever they got an opportunity. A large dog 
was about the best preventative of this, as well as having a 
varmint proof chicken house to lock them up in at night. As 
automobiles increased, they also killed their share of chickens, 
for if the chickens were near the road when a car came by, the 



124 



chicken would almost invariably dart in front of the car. But, as 
a flock increased in size, it provided a source of income, since 
eggs, as well as the young chickens, could be sold in town. 

But technology began to change this system about the 
time of World War I. An apparatus known as an "incubator" was 
invented. This took the place of the "setting hens" and would 
allow the hens to continue to lay eggs for those three weeks 
required for the hatching processes. Depending upon the size 
of the incubator, it would replace several setting hens at a time. 
Also, the chicks all hatched simultaneously and were thus more 
uniform in size. A couple days after they hatched, they would 
be placed in a "brooder house" where they would be housed, fed, 
and watered until they were grown. Of course, the mother 
instinct still prevailed in the laying hens, so they would occa- 
sionally ti-y to sit on one or two eggs, in spite of the fact that her 
other eggs had been "stolen" from her. So, whenever this 
happened, the hen would have to be "jailed" (confined to a coop 
of some kind) for a couple of days. This usually made her give 
up the idea, and she would return to productive egg laying once 
again. 

My folks got their first incubator perhaps before I was 
bom. One of my earliest memories was that incubator every 
spring in our kitchen, yielding a bunch of fuzzy little chicks. We 
could peek through the window of the front door of the incubator 
and watch for the "pip" on the egg about a day before it hatched. 
Then, we could watch for them to crack the shell and squirm 
their way out. That incubator would hold 200 eggs, and it was 
mother's responsibility. She was the "chicken manager" at our 
house, while Dad was responsible for all the other livestock. 
That was a very common arrangement among farm families 
during those times. This incubator was covered with tin, was 
approximately thirty inches square, and twelve to fourteen 
inches deep with four legs which made it about table height. It 
burned coal oil (kerosene) to maintain the even heat needed for 
three weeks to replace the body heat normally provided by the 



sitting hen. A thermometer was kept inside the incubator and 
had to be watched vigilantly to keep the temperature constant 
at all times or a poor "hatch" would result. Also, the eggs had 
to be turned twice each day as the mother hen had done. The 
eggs rested on two trays in the incubator, and the trays were slid 
out one at a time while the eggs were turned by hand. Even with 
all this good care, a seventy-five to eighty percent hatch was 
considered pretty good-but a poorer percentage than most 
setting hens would provide. 

As technology evolved, incubators were improved. My 
folks bought their second incubator on March 19, 1927. It was 
ordered through Sears Roebuck & Company, but was called an 
Ideal, manufactured by J. W. Miller Company, Rockford, Illi- 
nois. It cost them a total of $19. 56. It was of wood construction 
and was rated for 300 eggs, but mother usually didn't put over 
250 eggs in it at a time. This incubator had a thermostat to 
maintain an even temperature. It still burned coal oil, but 
heated water which circulated in pipes inside the incubator. It 
burned approximately eleven gallons of coal oil in three weeks 
and coal oil cost approximately 12(2 per gallon. I still have the 
incubator and am currently restoring it to present to the 
Schuyler County Jail Museum at Rushville, Illinois. 

By the second World War, technology was changing the 
pattern once more. Larger, commercial hatcheries developed in 
farm towns. These could operate more efficiently. Mother 
began selling hatching eggs to the commercial hatchery in 
Augusta and buying back what chicks she wanted that were 
hatched from her own eggs. This ended the use of home 
incubators. 

After World War II, specialization began in both the 
broUer and egg businesses, making it increasingly difficult for 
farm flocks to show a profit. So, one by one, farmers ceased their 
chicken operations. By 1950, less than half of the farm opera- 
tions had chickens, whereas probably ninety percent had flocks 
just twenty years earlier. By 1960, farm flocks were practically 



nonexistent. My mother was one exception, although she did 
change from Plymouth Rocks to Leghorns for they were slightly 
better egg producers. She enjoyed her chickens so much that 
she kept a few as late as 1982, when she was 97 years of age. 
Chickens did provide many farmers with some very 
badly needed dollars during the Depression years. My father 
milked cows (by hand) and sold cream. Money from cream and 
eggs saw our family through those difficult years. My mother 
kept our farm records and I have those books from 1924 through 
1964. She faithfully recorded the number of eggs collected daily 
during those forty years. She also recorded the eggs sold and the 
prices received for each sale. They were a very important item 
for farm folks during that era. 



SAVING THE CHICKENS 

Ivan E. Prall 

By the summer of 1932 the Depression had deepened to 
the extent that many people, especially in the cities, were going 
hungry. On the farm there was no money to pay bills, but if a 
farmer raised chickens, there were eggs to eat and occasionally 
a chicken or hog for meat. The result of this situation was that 
desperate city people started "visiting" the rural population in 
the wee small hours of the night and would carry off chickens or 
small live stock. 

Since the average farmer of that time had no telephone 
or electricity, he could not summon help or turn on a yard light. 
The first line of defense was usually a good watch dog and a 
shotgun. A second defense line sought by many was the guinea. 
This peculiar looking fowl was raised along with the chickens. 
A guinea would feed with the chickens during the day, but at 
night would fly into the tree limbs above the farm yard to roost. 



At the slightest unusual nocturnal activity below, it would 
immediately start up a loud chant ofpoderacklpoderack!" until 
their sleep was no longer being disturbed. 

The farm magazine Prairie Farmer, under their Protec- 
tive Union Organization, established a third line of defense. For 
a negligible fee they supplied you with a small can of indelible 
ink that looked like black axle grease, a wicked looking tool to 
use with this, and signs to post along the road front indicating 
that your chickens were marked. A purchasing farmer was 
assigned a registration number. The numerals of this number 
were outlined with needles on the tool. Marking the chicken 
was a two person job. First, the chickens had to be corralled and 
brought forth one by one. My job was to hold the fowl on its back 
on the bottom of an overturned wooden box. One wing was 
spread out exposing the tin web with a little cover inside the 
bottom of the wing. Here my father, after pressing sharp pins 
of the metal stamper into the indelible ink paste, forced it down 
on the wing web, and the chicken was branded with our family 
registration number. 

The theory here was that a chicken thief peddling his ill- 
gotten fowls to a dealer would be exposed and caught when the 
dealer checked under the chicken's wing for a branded number. 
Personally, due to our proximity to Chicago and other large 
cities, I doubt if many chicken buyers checked beneath the 
wings of profered fowls. 

As summer passed in the farm community where we 
lived, north of Sycamore, our neighbors all around lost chickens. 
Lottie Larson, a widow, lost eight-all that she had. Certainly 
this left her desperate. The Nelsons lost two hundred, Andersons 
one hundred and forty, and so on. 

What had preserved us so far was that our farm sat back 
at the end of a long lane, while the neighbors all were situated 
immediately beside the gravel road. 

Our fenced chicken yard with roosting houses was lo- 
cated just beyond our brief lawn in line with the upstairs 



126 



bedroom window. A few yards beyond the chicken yard ran a 
cow lane fenced with barb wire. This lane led the cows from the 
meadow to the bam. The grazing meadow lay between the 
house and the road. 

After our neighbors' losses, we began to feel secure 
because of our distance from the road. Then one night we were 
awakened around 1:00 a.m. by the "poderacking" of our guineas 
and muffled squeaks of chickens. My father stumbled out of the 
bedroom to grope his way in the dark downstairs and get his 
shotgun. My mother, realizing the time required for this and 
the darkness of the night presenting poor targets, rushed to the 
screened window overlooking the chicken yard and emitted the 
loudest, shrillest "Get out of there!" that I had ever heard. At 
least it was the loudest noise I was ever to hear from my mother. 
There followed a twanging noise from below, somewhat like the 
plucking of a banjo string, then silence except the "poderacking!" 
of the guineas and fussing of the disturbed chickens. 

My father writh his shotgun prowled in the dark but 
could find no one. Morning light disclosed the source of the 
twanging noise. The thief, or thieves, making their abrupt 
departure upon my mother's scream, had run into the barb wire 
fence along the cow lane. Pieces of burlap bags and chicken 
feathers surrounded the spot, and blood was on the fence. A 
rough count indicated we might have lost four to eight chickens. 

We were not bothered again during our years on the 
farm, but my mother injured her throat that night with her 
mighty yell and for several weeks could only whisper. 



SHIPPING DAY AT NORRIS FARM 

Donald R. Norris 

At the turn of the century all my father's fat cattle were 
shipped by rail to the Union Livestock Yards in Chicago. As a 
youngster, I found accompanying them to market was an 
experience to be remembered. 

My father most often chose a Monday as market day for 
his cattle. Selectingthe steers was the first step. Swinging open 
the feed lot gate about two in the afternoon on Sunday, I 
remember the steers hesitated before venturing outside the lot. 
Apparently fearful of leaving their familiar surroundings, they 
sniffed the ground beyond the gateway. After the leaders had 
made the plunge, those following came with a rush, jumping in 
surprise at their unexpected opportunity for freedom. 

Several neighbors joined us, everyone on horseback, in 
preparation for the two-mile drive to the railroad loading pens 
in LaMoille. My father trusted me to take the lead to hold the 
pace to a walk. 

The fat cattle ran too hard; they were exhausted and lost 
weight. One or two riders would take positions on each side of 
the herd to keep a nervous steer from leaving the roadway. On 
his favorite bay mare, my father brought up the rear, enjoying 
his view of the broad backs of his fattened charges. 

If all went well, we would have our steers at the village 
limits of LaMoille in about an hour. Halfway there, we crossed 
Pike Creek. Spanning the creek was a bridge supported by its 
iron framework, and it had a floor of planks. When the steers 
in the lead approached the edge of the bridge, they came to an 
abrupt halt, refusing to put a foot on the plank floor. I rode my 
pony across, hoping some steers would follow. They didn't. The 
men shouted and cracked their whips. The steers pushed 
forward, forcing the leaders to follow me. Once started, the herd 
charged across. I remember how the bridge shook and the 
frightened steers crowded against each other from fear of falling 



off the shaking structure. 

Invariably, our troubles started at LaMoUle, Illinois. 
Village dogs barking to protect their domain from this sudden 
new challenge would panic some of our herd, sending steers in 
several directions across lawns and backyard gardens. Often as 
not, a surprised and angry housewife, anxious to be rid of the 
intruders, would suddenly appear waving her apron with both 
hands, hoping to chase away our confused and frightened 
animals. I remember steers plunging through a grape arbor 
and trampling gardens that brought threats of a lawsuit. It was 
always a feeling of great relief to me when we could close the 
gate behind our charges at the raOroad loading pens. 

Often our steers would be loaded, the wide rolling stock 
car doors slammed shut, just as the "way freight" came puffing 
into LaMoille from the west on a branch line of the Chicago 
Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Coming from Denrock, near 
the Mississippi River some seventy-five miles west of LaMoille, 
it was serving as a "work train" hauling loaded cars to the main 
line of the "Q." After it screeched to a stop, the brakeman would 
disengage the engine. By stepping on the "cow catcher" up front, 
he could ride on the engine to the spur track to couple on our 
cars. With bumps and lurches they would be moved to join the 
line of cars awaiting them. The brakeman would then give the 
engineer the sign to start the train. With the "bill of lading" 
from our station agent identifying our cars by number, and 
letters on their exterior sides and a head count of our animals, 
my father and I would hurry to board the caboose at the rear of 
the long train. 

Upon arriving at CB&Q's main line at Mendota and 
after an hour of switching cars that only a railroad brakeman 
could justify, our train continued toward Chicago, jerking 
along, stopping to add cars of stock at loading points en route. 
Owners often accompanied their shipments. A shipper was 
allowed a free ride in the caboose with a free pass to return on 
a passenger train. 



At each stop, the door of the caboose would be opened and 
slammed shut many times. The talking and shouting made any 
sleep impossible. In winter I remember that the blasts of cold 
air chilled everyone except those close to the potbellied stove. 
After what seemed endless hours of travel, starting, stopping, 
and waiting in the darkness, our train of cars jerked to a halt at 
a long row of unloading docks within the Chicago Yards. Each 
car of stock would be unloaded and the animals secured in one 
of the maze of pens under roof near the docks. From there they 
would be driven to the sale pens before market time. 

From the caboose at the rear of the train to the train 
depot itself was a long walk in the early morning darkness, as 
we stumbled over rails and dodged switch engines, hissing 
steam, their bells clanging. Arriving at the depot, I remember 
a hearty breakfast of pancakes and syrup, eggs and sausage. 
The market wouldn't open until 8 a.m. and no sales were 
allowed before that hour. In the meantime, there was much for 
a farm boy to see. 

Unbelievably, the Stock Yards area encompassed a 
square mile, six hundred and forty acres of livestock pens, 
alleyways, scale houses, packing plants and factories, all re- 
lated in some way to the sale and slaughter of livestock and the 
preparation of those products. With many railroad lines enter- 
ing and leaving the city of Chicago bringing cattle, hogs, sheep, 
and lambs to market, Chicago became known in particular as 
the "hog-killing capitol of the world." Efficiency was such that 
packers boasted of using "everything but the squeal." 

The sale of our stock was handled by an established firm 
of livestock salesmen on a commission basis. A sale was made 
directly between our commission agent and the packer or order 
buyer, man to man, eyeball to eyeball-a contest of wits and 
personalities. Often there was haggling over a quarter cent per 
pound of the live weight of the shipment. A dull market took 
longer, each side vying for the price advantage. My father's 
loyalty was such that in his lifetime he consigned all his cattle 



and hogs to the Bowles Livestock Commission Company and he 
encouraged others to do so too. He considered Bowles the best 
salesman at the Chicago Yards. 

In a complex as large as the Chicago Yards, most cattle 
buyers and many salesmen rode horseback to get about the area 
and to sort offanimals from large shipments. Commission firms 
were not allowed to buy meals or lunches or cut rates to gain 
customers. Recognized firms were bonded for the security of 
their clients. A shipper received his commission firm's check for 
his stock minus the commission earned and the cost of the hay 
or grain fed to his animals. 

An additional interest at the yards for a youngster was 
a trip through a meat packing plant. The two plants I recall 
were Swift and Armour. Visitors were directed to an overhead 
walkway. A sign said, "Those unable to endure the sight of blood 
take detour." I remember I didn't. Beef animals were stunned 
before having their throats cut. Hogs and sheep didn't receive 
that mercy. The animals were swung off the floor, heads down, 
onto a rail, their blood gushing against the rubber aprons of 
those doing the killing. With a steer's hide removed, the carcass 
was split down the backbone and reduced to quarters. Once 
started, the disecting never stopped-eventually to bite size 



pieces in some instances. Men of every ethnic group stood side 
by side with razor sharp knives and cleavers to reduce car- 
casses, still warm, to manageable portions for human consump- 
tion. The sight and smell of blood, the odor of steam from 
cooking vats, and the hum of machinery mixed with men's 
voices created an atmosphere I had never before experienced. 
Refrigeration and packaging occupied the attention of both men 
and women in another area of the plant. At the end of our tour 
a pretty lady with a smile offered various bite size product 
samples, labeled for distribution. She invited us to return. 

By now it was 4:00 p.m. I joined my father to catch a 
Halsted street car for the ride toward the Union Passenger 
Depot to board the CB&Q to Mendota. From there we would 
take the evening train west to Denrock through LaMoille. 

It had been a long day. As I settled back in my green 
plush seat in our passenger car, I was content to be leaving the 
city with its crowds and noise. As our train moved into the 
country, the open fields were serene and peaceful. My day in the 
city had given me much to think about. I shuddered at the 
thought of being a packing plant employee. One thing I was 
sure of; I wanted to be a farmer and a livestock man. 




VIl My ^irst Job 



131 



MY FIRST JOB 

The Puritan work ethic, which is a cornerstone for 
America and its noble dream, is one of the primary reasons for 
the nation's character and preeminence. This ethic is, of course, 
a societal necessity in all civilized social orders. The lack of it 
is a grave sign of crisis. And those who study human behavior 
report that there is the need for work satisfaction, the pleasure 
of a job well done. The Jewish faith, Christianity, and other 
faiths speak firmly of the necessity for honorable work. 

This important concept, however, has for some time 
been the target of criticism. During the late 1960s and early 
1970s in the United States, the work ethic was attacked by 
many as being an outdated and corrupt tool of the elite to 
maintain its own wealth. Instead, many of the youth subscribed 
to the pleasure principle, the child of affluence and humanistic 
philosophy as well as psychology. Others turned inward, 
focusing on a frantic search for their identities, the massaging 
of their egos. Indeed, many college and university professors 
accepted and taught one or both of these beliefs. Still others, 
politically opposed to capitalism, perceived that they could 
attack an important prop of the American republic by endeav- 
oring to undermine the work ethic. 

In those days, jobs were plentiful, dollars easy to come 
by. The youth could afford to look inward, to contemplate their 
navels, to consider work as a minor goal. But Japan and 
Germany knew better. They planned and built, the ethic of 
work central to both their thinking and procedure. Of all the 
grave errors of the '60s and '70s, none was more serious than the 
erosion of the work ethic in America. 

All that comes from economic recession or depression is 
not to be deplored. With bad times, with economic dysfunction, 
comes the work ethic, the understanding of the crucial nature 
of tenacious endeavor, the necessity for it, and the satisfaction 
of a job well done. This is no little development, and it is 



positive. The memoirs in this chapter demonstrate the validity 
of these claims. In this discussion of first jobs, the ideal of the 
work ethic is considered in depth, and there is very great 
wisdom offered. 

Many of the memoirs explain the sense of accomplish- 
ment and pride involved in their first jobs. Hazel Fink speaks 
of the pride she gained through nursing and of the profound 
sense of achievement she realized through the endeavor. Vir- 
ginia Schneider shares the difficulty of getting a job in the days 
of the Great Depression and the joy and sense of accomplish- 
ment when a full-time position was achieved. 

James B. Jackson learned the value of work in his first 
job of building hard roads. He learned that he was the equal of 
the men with whom he worked, and experienced peace and 
inner joy. Perhaps the most important lesson was that he must 
finish his education to get a better job. 

Lydia Jo Boston shares the back breaking fruit-picking 
work of her first job. Though more than demanding, the job 
taught her much, not the least of which was "the responsibility 
of finishing a job in spite of any discomfort I might feel." She also 
speaks of "a sense of pride and satisfaction in working." 

Elma Strunk's first job was teaching. Her ambition was 
fueled by a desire to succeed and a need to eat. In spite of poor 
working conditions, poor pay, and manifold hardships she 
achieved the "burning desire to be the very best teacher I could 
be." 

Self-respect is another attribute mentioned by the writ- 
ers. In 1917MaryStormer's grandfather, with whom she lived, 
told her it was time to accomplish odd jobs around the house- 
for which she was to be paid a penny. She felt well about herself 
for meeting her grandfather's wishes. It also taught her the 
value of money and how to manage it. 

Work also prepares one to succeed in life. Many of the 
writers made this point. Anna Becchelli, having arrived in 
America just ten days before her first job, spoke no English, a 



fact makingher first job as a waitress stressful. Still, it helped 
prepare her for success in her new home. Phyllis Fenton 
appreciated the fact that her job as a waitress prepared her to 
succeed later and to enjoy the success. Ivan Prall recalls with 
pride and satisfaction the job that helped him feel a sense of 
success. 

Work, though not always pleasant at the time, had a 
positive effect on the lives of these vmters. The toil they 



exhibited in their lives was part and parcel of a mind set, an 
ethic, an attitude, an action that distinguished them and that, 
multiplied by an ethos shared by countless Americans, helped 
build a very great nation. 

Alfred J. Lindsey 



133 



UNDER A >rURSE'S CAP 

Hazel Denum Frank 

While visiting with friends recently, I began reminiscing 
about my days in Nurses Training, starting in 1927. Everyone 
in the group seemed especially interested in my description of 
the uniform we wore as student nurses, but one young woman's 
reaction was, "How gross!" This puzzled me because that 
uniform set those of us who wore it apart from all others. It was 
never seen on the street, only in the hospital or in the nurses' 
home. All others were dressed in the traditional white starched 
attire, but the student nurses' uniforms were ours alone. 

After paying the $75 registration fee at the Hospital 
School of Nursing, we were issued our uniforms: a dress of blue 
and white striped chambray with elbow-length sleeves and a 
modest neckline. It featured a detachable, stiffly starched 
white collar and cuffs. The front of the dress was held closed 
with removable shank buttons, and the full, gathered skirt was 
below calf-length and had a set-in belt. There was also a white 
apron gathered to a waistband, and this apron overlapped in 
back and completely covered the skirt. Black laced oxfords and 
black hose completed the uniform. It's interesting to note that 
the housemother adjusted the length of the skirts so no matter 
how short or tall the person, each skirt was exactly the same 
distance from the floor. This is how we dressed for the first four 
months, which was a probationary period. 

Our training began with us working on the floor at the 
hospital's 7 to 7 day shift, with two hours off, four on Sunday. It 
was here that we learned about cleanliness, obedience, prompt- 
ness, and seniority. There was not only seniority in the three 
class levels, but seniority vdthin each class itself. This even 
extended to the dining room where each class had its own table, 
with the senior of the class seated at the head. Around that 
table, her classmates were seated clockwise, according to se- 
niority. Our place at the table was marked by a napkin ring 



which we each furnished. My sister Roberta and I went to the 
jewelry store and bought silver napkin rings. Too late we 
discovered that any kind of ring was acceptable, even an old 
bracelet! 

We also attended classes in practical nursing, nursing 
procedures, and ethics, as taught by the Supervisor of Nurses. 
We soon learned promptness at class was a must whether it was 
scheduled while we were on duty or on our short time off. One 
of our first accomplishments was carrying the big trays on our 
hand at shoulder level without spilling. We learned to respect 
all student nurses, our seniors and supervisors, and especially 
doctors. We always stood in the presence of nurses as well as 
doctors. A doctor never went into a patient's room without a 
nurse accompanying him, opening the door for him, and then 
always walking at least one step behind him. During this 
probationary period, we learned to manage our time, always 
finish the assigned work, study and keep our grades up, and 
keep our rooms satisfactorily neat. Our day ended with "Lights 
Out" at the 9:45 curfew. 

At the end of the probationary period, if we had adjusted 
to routine, had satisfactory grades, and showed promise of 
becoming a good nurse, we were promoted to freshmen. Many 
dropped out at this time. Those of us remaining were issued 
white, stiffly-starched bibs. The bib was to be tucked into our 
apron, the wide straps crossed in the back, and then buttoned 
to the apron band. More importantly, we were also issued a 
CAP! Each school had its own style of cap; therefore, there were 
several different caps worn by the supervisors. Some were quite 
ornate. Our camps were flat when they came from the laundry. 
We then turned back a "cuff," brought the comers to the center- 
back, and secured them with the usual shank buttons. They 
were worn on the back of the head, secured in front with a white- 
headed pin, and at the sides with bobby pins, preferably white. 
We first feared they would fall off, but soon became quite secure 
with them. The rule was never be seen in uniform without your 



134 



cap! In fact, the cap was so much a part of the nurse, it was often 
the last item of the uniform to be removed. I recall the first day 
I went into the nurses' home I saw a senior nurse at the 
telephone. She had very little on, but her cap was in place! I 
soon learned that was not uncommon. 

During our freshman and junior (2nd) year, the uniform 
remained the same. It was always worn while on duty, unless 
during special training such as surgery, laboratory, or diet 
kitchen. In these situations, plain white "scrub robes" were 
worn. The cap was worn except during surgery when special 
caps were donned to cover the hair. As soon as possible, 
however, the nurses' cap was back on our heads because it was 
a source of great pride to us. At this time, since all the care of 
the patients was done by students, we received a monthly 
allowance. During the freshman year, it was $8 per month; 
increasing to $9 during the junior year. We were supervised by 
an R.N. on each floor and department during days and by one 
supervisor at night. 

When we entered our third year and became seniors, we 
received a black velvet ribbon to be worn as a band on our cap. 
With this came more responsibility, along with an allowance of 
$10 per month. Among our studies were classes in anatomy, 
material medica, chemistry, nursing history, obstetrics, and 
others taught by the doctors. Dietetics was taught by the 
dietician, and we also learned about serving special diets, which 
was a very important part of the training. 

At the end of three years working in all areas of the 
hospital, and having satisfactorily met the grade requirements, 
we were ready for graduation. For this occasion, we received our 
regular white, long-sleeved starched uniforms, still secured 
with the white shank buttons, plus white shoes and hose, and 
a cap. Graduation did not mean we were full-fledged nurses, 
however. We put back on our striped uniforms and finished our 
required number of days, according to the sick days we had to 
make up. I finished on August 21, 1930, at 1:00 p.m. and had 



free time from then until State Board Exams. The testing lasted 
three days; then it was back home to Stronghurst to wait for the 
report. Then, and only then, could I call myself an R.N. and 
begin to practice my profession and start earning money. 

It was three years of hard work and new experiences, but 
it was worth every bit of it to have the privilege of wearing that 
uniform, and especially the cap. It bothers me a great deal that 
today's nurses seem to have lost some respect for the uniform 
and cap. The have learned so much more than we did, have 
skills that weren't even thought of at our time of training, and 
are good nurses. Yet I wish they could recapture the respect we 
had for the nurse's uniform and the cap, in particular. The cap 
wasn'tjust something to wear. It was a part of the nurse. And 
it represented the opportunity for young women to fulfill their 
dreams for a life of respect and service. 



I LOOK FOR THAT FIRST JOB 

Virginia Schneider 

Trjring to find that first steady job during the Great 
Depression of the 1930s was like finding a needle in a haystack! 
Although I could type and take short-hand, I joined everyone 
else in willingness to settle for any kind of paying job. Very few 
of us were concerned about vacations, fringe benefits, or coffee 
breaks. 

When Goldblatt Brothers were opening a new depart- 
ment store in a southeast Chicago neighborhood, I decided to 
apply for work there, with my fingers crossed. However, I had 
to take a long ride on a lumbering, noisy street-car with 
screeching wheels to their employment office, which was lo- 
cated in what was then the Stockyards area around 47th and 
Halsted. 



The day was hot, muggy, and very uncomfortable. What 
made it even more uncomfortable was this sickening odor 
wafting from the slaughterhouses in the stockyards through 
the open streetcar windows. At that time, Chicago had the 
largest livestock market in the world and was considered the 
greatest meat packing city. 

What with the butterflies that I felt in my stomach 
because of anxiety about getting hired and having a tendency to 
become nauseated whenever I rode a streetcar, this offensive 
smell made me feel even more queasy. It was a good thing that 
I had a brown bag with me for it certainly came in handy. 

It took great determination to keep going and not turn 
back. I wondered how the residents in that area were able to 
tolerate this overpowering stench in the summertime when 
windows had to be open since air-conditioning was not available 
at that time. Carl Sandburgonce said that Chicago was the "hog 
butcher of the world." Without a doubt, it smelled like it in that 
part of town! 

When I finally made it to the Goldblatt's Employment 
Office, the line of us unemployed was so long, I never thought 
I'd get interviewed before dark. Yet, I was fortunate to be one 
of the few selected to work in their millinery section on opening 
day only. We sold loads of ladies' hats for $1.00, and we were 
kept very busy. During this rush, one of the girls gave a 
customer the wrong change from a ten-dollar bill. She was fired 
immediately. 

Later, while hopefully waiting for Goldblatt's to call me 
after that single work-day, a friend and I decided to try our luck 
in downtown Chicago. My friend told me that they needed 
chorus girls at the Minsk/s Rialto Theatre on State Street. 
WhUe I was anxious to get work, I wasn't too eager to apply 
there, for I didn't think I'd feel comfortable wearing those 
skimpy costumes. Of course, this was before the bikini was 
accepted as standard beach and backyard garb. 

Was I relieved when we were told that the manager was 



out to lunch! Besides, we were told that they already had all the 
chorus girls they needed. Today, I wonder what would my 
thirteen grandchildren think of their grandma as a chorus girl? 

Since it was close to Christmas, we decided to walk over 
to the Mandel Brothers Department Store on State and Madi- 
son streets, the busiest corner in the world at that time. On the 
way over, a very strong wind made it difficult to keep our skirts 
where they belonged while hanging onto our hats at the same 
time. No ladies wore slacks then and one simply did not go 
downtown without a hat and white gloves. 

While my friend Rose and I struggled against the wind 
to look respectable, the men enjoyed our predicament! Rosie 
told me something I never knew. I always thought Chicago was 
called the Windy City because of this strong wind. "Not so," she 
informed me. "Along about 1890, Chicagoans were bragging so 
much about their city that a New York newspaper editor nick- 
named it "windy city." 

At Mandel Brothers, the personnel manager looked so 
stem, I was afraid to apply for this job. Rose, who was bolder 
than I, encouraged me. 

"Oh c'mon, I'll go first and you'll see how easy it is." 

He asked her if she had any experience, and even though 
she told him she had, she wasn't hired. That almost made me 
want to get out of this long line of prospective employees. Too, 
I worried whether I should tell him that I was experienced since 
I only worked that one day as a sales girl at Goldblatt's 

With a good deal of trepidation and a little push from 
Rosie, I looked him in the eye and said, "Yes sir, I've had 
experience." He seemed to be able to look through me and know 
that I wasn't too sure of myself. However, he informed me 
curtly, "I'll give you this opportunity. See what you can do with 
it." I couldn't believe that I was hearing right! Yet, I got to work 
on the main floor during the Christmas rush selling beautifully 
initialed men's handkerchiefs for only a dollar a box! It was also 
a good spot to be working for it was near the entrance and 



136 



attracted many shoppers. Among them was the actor who 
played "De Lawd" in Green Pastures, a play written by Marc 
Connelly. 

I felt sorry for Rosie who practically had to push me into 
applying for this job, yet she was turned down . After Christmas, 
hov/ever, all of us extras got the pink slip. I wondered if I would 
ever land a steady job-yet, I could at least now be able to say I 
was experienced without flinching. 

Another Christmas rolled around before I was able to get 
work again. I applied at the Wieboldt's Department Store on 
63rd Street, near Halsted Street, a very busy shopping area. On 
the 63rd Street streetcar, I met my former shorthand and 
typing teacher, who was disappointed that I hadn't found use 
for these skills. 

At Wieboldt's I was hired. No, I wasn't hired as a sales- 
clerk this time. Because I was then a petite young lady, I was 
asked to hand each child a present as he/she came to visit Santa. 
I dressed in a fairy costume and wore a tinsel trimmed dress, a 
shiny tiara in my hair, and pretty white slippers. 

A Chicago Herald-Examiner newspaper reporter came 
and took a picture of me handing a little girl a present while 
Santa smiled on. This picture appeared in this now-extinct 
newspaper. 

After Christmas, I had to start looking for a job again! 
The Wieboldt personnel manager assured me, however, that if 
anything turned up, he would call me. 

In the meantime, a brother-in-law, who managed a cigar 
store next to the Loyala Law School in downtown Chicago, 
called me and said that his assistant had the flu. He asked if I 
could help out. 

I agreed somewhat reluctantly since I wasn't too greatly 
experienced using a cash register. I did make some mistakes. 
However, the fellows from the law school and telephone com- 
pany nearby told me about it in a nice way and for that I was 
grateful. At Mandel Brothers, I didn't get to use a cash register. 



We wrote up the sale and enclosed it along with the money in a 
metal tube that was attached to a wire pulley and conveyed to 
a cashier. 

Again, all too soon, this job also came to an end, for Ed's 
assistant recuperated and returned in no time. No one lingered 
at home with an illness for fear of being replaced. 

Next, I tried baby-sitting, except that in those days you 
didn't just sit. You were also expected to help with housework 
and do dishes besides caring for a child. I was paid a grand total 
of six dollars a week plus carfare. I had to work from 8:30 a.m. 
to 7:00 p.m. with Thursday afternoons off. I also stayed 
overnight on Wednesdays and Saturdays so that my employer 
and her husband could go out on the town while I stayed with 
their young son. 

You'd think I won a million dollars in the lottery! I was 
that elated when I came home from my baby-sitting job one day! 
My mom told me that Wieboldt's called and wanted me to come 
and work in their men's department as a regular on week-ends 
from Thursday through Saturday. 

I sold what seemed like a thousand neckties that first 
day. They cost 29(! a tie and went like hot cakes. Men wore ties 
more often in the 1930s than they do today. A tie would look 
weird with a running suit. 

Eventually, I got to work steady from Monday to Satur- 
day, and how I rejoiced to be able to count a regular weekly 
paycheck. Even though, according to today's standards, it 
wasn't very much, that $14 a week looked good to me. After I 
got my first paycheck, I picked up a porterhouse steak at 29(Z a 
lb. to celebrate my good fortune! 

If I sold a typewriter, I got a commission plus a day off. 
This job was certainly a lot better than my baby-sitting job at $6 
per week. It was also nice to get a discount when purchasing 
items in the store. In fact, I still use the bedroom set I bought 
there in 1936. Furniture was made to last in those days! 

From all those attempts at finding my first steady job 



137 



during the Great Depression, when I finally did get that perma- 
nent job, I gave it my all because I was so pleased to get it. Also, 
I benefitted from that variety of part-time jobs because all those 
experiences have provided me with "grist for the mill" in my 
efforts as a free-lance writer. 

And, oh yes, Mrs. Olson, wherever you are ... I do get to 
use my typing skills-shorthand, too-to good advantage after 
all! 



THE HARD ROAD GANG 

James B. Jackson 

School closed in May, 1926, and I graduated from the 
little two-year high school in Tennessee, Illinois. For the first 
time I faced a summer with nothing to keep me at home. I was 
big and strong and had just turned eighteen. I needed money 
for school in the fall and I wanted to break away and be a man 
on my own. Len Small was Governor and he was trying to pull 
Illinois out of the mud by building "Hard Roads," as we called 
them, in contrast to "Dirt Roads." Dad was working on a State 
Highway construction crew in Calhoun County, and he said he 
could get me on too for the summer. It was too good to turn 
down. 

Plans were made so that I would arrive in Hardin on a 
Saturday and be ready for work on Monday morning. I packed 
my clothes: three pairs of bib overalls, three or four pairs of 
rockford sox, a few chambray shirts, a pair of work shoes, my 
straight edge razor, my toothbrush, and a Brownie camera. I'm 
sure I had a hat of some sort and a bag or box to carry it all in. 
I wore the one suit I owned and the shirt, tie, and shoes that 
went with it. I had my pocket knife, a few hundred dollars, and 
a one way ticket to Elsbury, Missouri. 



I caught the 2:00 p.m. Burlington passenger train on 
Friday and felt like a man of the world, a man with a mission. 
I knew all the towns between Macomb and Quincy and I kept a 
look out for familiar landmarks. As the train passed a couple of 
hundred yards from our house, I could see Mother and the girls 
waving me goodbye. At Quincy we crossed the Mississippi into 
Missouri, and I was in foreign territory, a stranger in a strange 
land. In less than an hour, we were in Elsbury, Missouri. I 
checked in at the one and only hotel, my first experience of the 
kind, and it must have been obvious to the kindly old desk clerk. 
I ate supper in the dining room. 

Early next morning, Saturday, I caught the Star Route 
mail carrier for the last leg of my journey. It cost me 50c to ride 
the twenty miles to Hardin, Illinois. That included my baggage! 
We crossed the Mississippi River on a cable ferry and drove up 
to the orchard country and on down to Hardin, county seat of 
Calhoun County. Such a tiny town! 

I asked at the post office for directions and thus started 
a brand new life for me. I met Dad at the rooming house, and 
we had a good visit. Room, board, and washing was $3.50 a 
week. 

We were finished with breakfast and waiting for the 
truck to leave at 6:30 Monday morning. Our lunches were 
packed, big, hearty sandwiches, and a dessert (usually pie). The 
men had coffee, which I didn't drink at that time in my life. 
Until I had a paycheck and bought a dinner bucket, I carried my 
food in a paper bag. There was a water barrel on the job. The 
water was cooled by wet sacks that were wrapped around it as 
it sat in the shade. Ice water was supposed to be bad for hot, 
sweaty men to drink. Maybe it was; I'll never know! 

I went to work as assistant form setter. The head form 
setter, Roy, explaining how to read the surveyor's stakes, 
handed me a pick, a shovel, and a sixteen-pound sledge ham- 
mer. The forms were made of heavy sheet steel, ten feet long 
and nine inches high. They were flat on the bottom and slanted 



at the back. There was a hole at each end and one in the middle 
through which a steel stake was driven to keep it in place. Each 
form fitted into the one behind it. Since the big concrete mixer 
rolled along the forms, they had to be set firmly. They were left 
in place until the mix set. 

Each morning we pulled the forms off the previous day's 
work and dragged them by hand to the next area. In itself, this 
was a hard, mean job. To make it worse, the old forms were half 
full of concrete, and most of them weighed a hundred pounds or 
more. We would set forty or fifty pairs of forms a day. I worked 
without gloves and by the end of the summer had thick calluses. 

Roy set his form first and then I would measure across 
to my form. I think it was sixteen feet. The form had to be 
exactly parallel to Roy's and on the same level which I got from 
the grade stakes. Most of the time it was just a matter of moving 
some dirt or adding some. In some places, the grading crew had 
not cut deep enough when they hit solid rock. This meant I had 
to use a sledge hammer and a pick to remove an inch or two of 
hard limestone. The outcrop might be forty or fifty feet long. On 
more than one occasion I raised the grade stake a bit-an inch or 
so. Of course, this made a slight hump, a permanent hump. 
Forty years later as I drove along the same road, I could see and 
feel them. For some reason, I never felt a single twinge of guilt! 

All of our materials came up from St. Louis by barges 
pushed by the old side wheeler, the Golden Eagle. Sand, gravel, 
and cement in cloth sacks were unloaded on the riverbank some 
fifty yards off the roadway. Sand and gravel were shoveled by 
hand into a long-legged hopper, and the correct number of bags 
of cement was poured in on top, again by hand. The cement men 
greased their faces in the morning, and by night they had at 
least an eighth-inch of cement plastered tightly all over. (I 
wonder now how much they sucked into their lungs.) The 
hopper held one truck load. The trucks were T-Model Fords 
vrith gear shifts added. They had no cab, just a box for a seat. 
The driver knelt on the box and drove wide open in reverse as 



much as five miles to the mixer which was mounted on the steel 
forms and which rolled slowly forward as the "slab" was poured. 
When two drivers met where Roy and I were working, we gave 
them plenty of room as they had only a foot of clearance on any 
side. But I never saw a collision. 

We worked ten to twelve hours a day unless it rained. 
We drew no pay for off time and we were not paid portal-to- 
portal, just for time on the job. A couple of times we ran out of 
materials and had to wait until the Golden Eagle arrived with 
a fresh supply. The first time we lost half a week's pay. Then 
one morning just at dawn we heard that deep throated whistle 
we'd all been waiting for: "Steam boat a comin'." The whole 
town was happy. Every man in the gang was up and ready to 
go with a full lunch bucket when the trucks came at 6:30. Dad 
and I worked near enough together that we could eat lunch 
together. We'd find a shady spot and sprawl on the ground and 
talk and rest. One day the little red ants found our buckets in 
the tree where we had hung them. I was all for throwing 
everything away but Dad said: "Just knock off" what you can and 
eat the rest. They won't hurt you, and they have a nice sour 
taste." He was right on both counts. 

Sundays and days off I went walking up on the high land 
above the bluff and looked at the rows and rows of well-pruned 
apple trees. Or I'd sit on the old barge and fish for gar. Once in 
a while I'd go to a ten cent movie, mostly westerns. There was 
a nice girl who worked in her father's drug store where I bought 
film, toothpaste, and candy bars. I asked her once to go to a 
movie with me. She said she'd love to, but her parents would not 
let her go out with any of the "hard road gang." They didn't know 
it but she would have been in less danger with me than wdth a 
local swain parked in an apple orchard. All I had in mind was 
seeing a movie, eating an ice cream cone, and walking her home. 
I learned quickly what it feels like to be an outsider, distrusted 
and socially unacceptable, and it hurt. 

But I learned a great many other things, too. I could hold 



139 



my own with any man on the crew. I was as strong and as tough 
as any of them. I learned the true value of solitude and the peace 
and inner joy it brought after a week of hard work never out of 
sight of other men. By mid-August, when it was time to catch 
the Star Route carrier back to Elsbury, there was no doubt in my 
mind that for me construction work would never be any more 
than a means to an end. And the first end in mind was to finish 
high school and college. Eight years and many construction jobs 
later, I received my first degree from Western Illinois State 
Teachers College. But I shall always believe that my real 
education began with the "Hard Road Gang." 



LEARNING TO WORK IN NAUVOO: 
A FRUITFUL EXPERIENCE 

Lydia Jo Boston 

Nauvoo was a community of fruit growers. Many with 
a small acreage had strawberry and raspberry patches; vine- 
yards were a common part of the landscape. There were apple 
and pear orchards; peach, cherry, plum, and apricot trees 
provided fruit for family use with the surplus finding a ready 
market. You could usually find a job picking fruit if you really 
wanted to. 

I was introduced to the backbreaking job of picking those 
luscious, red strawberries when my mother took me with her to 
Aunt Mayme and Uncle Charlie's large patch. Customarily a 
child was assigned to pick with an adult until they learned how 
to search out the berries, picking all the ripe ones, not leaving 
any on the vines to spoil. When my younger sister and brother 
came along to pick, they, of course, picked with mother, but I got 
to pick vrith my cousin, Margaret! 

Each picker was given a tray containing four quart berry 



boxes; trays with six boxes were for speedy adult pickers. The 
full boxes were taken to the strawberry shed where the overripe 
and too green berries were sorted out by Grandma Huntley and 
Aunt Mayme. Depending on the wage for that particular year, 
you were paid either five or six cents for the four quarts. We 
carried small bags with a drawstring to hold the precious coins 
we earned. Sometimes we used a large safety pin to secure the 
bag and its treasure inside a pocket. We kids thought it a good 
day if we made 50c! Adults made more! 

Though we liked to earn money, we kids soon became 
tired; as the day wore on and the sun became hotter, we grew 
slower at our task. As we dawdled, we daydreamed of better 
times when we would no longer have to pick berries-maybe we'd 
be rich and spend our time ordering things we wanted from the 
current wishbook! Margaret and I used to dream that someday 
wealth could be ours if we could just devise a method for raising 
strawberries that would make them easier to pick. It was 
beyond our understanding why strawberries couldn't be grown 
in wooden boxes standing on legs, so we could stand up to pick 
and thus be relieved of backs that ached from several hours of 
stooping. Our fantasy for a future without backaches or sore 
knees included some arrangement that would allow us to ride 
between the rows and just lean over to pick. Unfortunately our 
dreams remained just dreams and strawberry picking still 
requires strong backs. 

Raspberries were usually picked in pint boxes. No 
matter how hot the day, you usually wore long sleeves to protect 
yourself from the thorny bushes. Some pickers would protect 
their hands by taking an old pair of dress gloves and cutting off 
the ends of the fingers, thus providing some measure of protec- 
tion for their hands while allowdng the fingers to work freely. 

One of our neighbors was among the first in the commu- 
nity to grow boysenberries. The berries were large and the 
boxes filled quickly, but the bushes were very thorny. The 
pickers were given a stick about twelve to fifteen inches long 



with a nail protruding about an inch or two from the end which 
allowed a picker to lift the thorny branches for easier picking. 

Grape cutting required a good knife to cut the bunches 
of grapes from the vine. Grape baskets sat on waist high stands 
to be filled and we tried to make the tops of the baskets even and 
neat. 

Even though it was discouraged, we girls sometimes 
wrote our names and addresses in the bottom of the grape 
baskets hoping to get ourselves a pen pal from up north where 
the grapes were shipped. We not only put in ours, but were 
known at times to include our friends and just for fun our 
mothers! We were somewhat concerned though that the state 
fruit inspector might find our names and our frivolity would be 
an embarrassment to Uncle Clarence, who was President and 
Manager of the Fruit Growers and Shippers Union! 

My mother once got a letter from some farmer's wife in 
the Red River Valley. Interestingly, her husband's name was 
Russell, as was my father's. They also had three children in the 
family as we did; they, too, had a Russell Jr. My cousin, 
Margaret, received a letter from a Norwegian farmer in North 
Dakota who had bought a basket of Nauvoo grapes. They 
corresponded and some years later they were married. 

The sun would be hanging low in the west and we could 
hear the six o'clock bells from the Convent as we walked home 
from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Clarence's vineyard. The tempting 
aroma of potatoes frying seemed to greet us from every house we 
passed on our way home tired and hungry after our day's work. 

There were some who raised tomatoes for the canning 
factory in Lomax, so there was another summer job between 
berry picking and grape harvest. My sister Lois became aware 
of discrimination at an early age when she discovered she was 
picking more tomatoes for 150 an hour than one of the boys for 
20(2 an hour. Her employer explained that men and boys always 
earn more than girls! The incident was no barrier for cupid; 
they married while still in their teens! 



A merchant from Ft. Madison opened a dime store in 
Nauvoo. Two of my girlfriends decided they would apply for a 
job there. I wasn't particularly interested in a clerking job in a 
store; however, I allowed them to persuade me to accompany 
them. When we arrived there, they both suddenly had an attack 
of shyness and urged me to tell the owner why they had come. 
I finally summoned up enough courage to approach him and 
asked for jobs for my friends. 

"I only need one more clerk," he said," and you can have 
the job if you want it." 

"Oh, but it's these girls that want the job," I protested. 

"But you asked and they didn't, so if you want the job, it 
is yours." 

From then on I got up earlier on Saturday mornings to 
walk the mile out to Grandma Ruffs to help her with the weekly 
cleaning and be back in time for my one o'clock job at the dime 
store. 

I really didn't mind the clerking job once I got used to it. 
One day an elderly lady asked for the "elastics." I guided her to 
the sewing notions to show her the elastic we had. 

"No! that is not what I want. I want the elastics you wear 
over your shoes to keep them from getting wet!" 

I decided she must mean what we called rubbers or 
overshoes, so I sent her on to another store. 

It was on my eighteenth birthday that I got the phone 
call offering me my first REAL job! A five-days-a-week job for 
35c an hour! I didn't have transportation, but some generous 
folk allowed me to be a part of their car pool so I was able to get 
to Fort Madison, Iowa, for my job at the Sheaffer Pen Company. 

As the nation's factories geared up for the war effort, 
there were transfers to different departments; working sched- 
ules changed with overtime and longer hours so at times finding 
a ride to and from work became a problem. There was no bus 
service, but morning and evening the mail was picked up at a Ft. 
Madison depot, and as long as there was room the carrier would 



take passengers. I recall one time when I rode "the mail" home. 
There were eight of us in the car with one passenger holding a 
decorated cake for delivery in Nauvoo. The bags of mail that 
wouldn't fit in the car trunk were deposited all round us until 
there was hardly breathing room! 

My fiance, Raymond, was discharged from the Navy in 
May of 1946 and we were married in June. I continued to work 
until we moved to a farm in the Colusa area in 1947. 

Looking back, I view those hot summer days in the berry 
patches as a fruitful experience! There I learned the responsi- 
bility of finishing a job in spite of any discomfort I might feel. 
The earnings, meager by today's standards, nevertheless bought 
needed clothes and helped pay my way to church camp ever 
summer. The fruit growers around town gave many a young 
person a summer job and were instrumental in instilling in 
them a sense of pride and satisfaction in working. They 
performed a needed service for the fruit grower and learned 
some important lessons about life and what it means to work. 
From this early experience young people learned how to relate 
to an employer-something they can use all their working lives. 



MY FIRST PENNY 

Mary C. Stormer 

"A penny saved is a penny earned." I'm sure everyone 
has heard this phrase. I want to tell about the "first penny" that 
I ever earned. 

This was a long time ago. I was four years old and had 
gone to live with my grandparents who lived on a farm west of 
the town of Eureka, Illinois, in Woodford County, the home of 
Eureka College, President Ronald Reagan's alma mater. 

The year was 1917. One day my grandfather mentioned 



the fact that I should be doing odd jobs to earn a little money. I 
agreed. The first job was to clean Grandpa's spitoon which was 
a small round blue granite pan, filled with clean wood ashes. 
The ashes came from the wood burning stove out in the old 
summer kitchen. The ashes were also used to "scour" the tin, 
black-handled knives and forks-another job for me. 

I received one penny a week in payment for my services. 
I will never forget my great joy the day Grandpa gave me my 
first earned penny. I saved my first penny which was a shiny 
new one with the year 1917 date. I still have this penny in my 
collection, labeled "the first penny that I earned." 

Throughout the years, I managed to earn quite a few 
pennies by doing errands for the nearby neighbors. I stored my 
pennies in a large white milkglass jar which I kept in Grandma's 
wardrobe on the top shelf. When I had 100 pennies saved up. 
Grandpa gave me a crisp $1 bill which he called a "green back." 
Oh! I thought, how wonderful to be able to save and have "green 
backs." 

Grandpa always enjoyed telling me how he had earned 
his "first penny." He would carry water to the thirsty hay 
makers in the field during the boiling hot July days. The water 
had to be pumped by hand from a deep well on the farm. Gallon 
jugs were filled with clean, sparkling clear, refreshingly thirst- 
quenching water. 

The coin that Grandpa showed me was (Oh, yes, he had 
saved that penny) larger than the usual penny. It was copper 
and bore the date 1850. Grandpa was six years old at that time. 
He was born October 7, 1844, in a log house on the farm two 
miles west of Metamora, Illinois. I have this penny in my 
collection as it is a pleasant memory. Grandpa gave it to me 
shortly before he passed away on February 18, 1932. 

Throughout the years, my daughter enjoyed hearing 
about the "penny story." So, we decided that she could earn a 
penny a week by doing little errands about the home. She still 
has the first penny she earned when she was four years old in 



142 



1940. She stored this penny in a little white bag which hung on 
a nail in back of the old dresser in the upstairs bedroom. It is 
still hanging there in the same place. 

Then, let history repeat itself. My granddaughter, Julie, 
also has the first penny that she earned by doing chores for her 
parents. That coin is in her glass piggy bank. 

In today's world, a penny doesn't mean anything to a 
child. What can they buy with a penny? Not much. It takes 
several pennies to pay the sales tax on all purchases. I saw a 
lady break a $5 bill in order to have change (extra pennies 
needed) to pay the sales tax. 

Living in today's uncertain times, I really do appreciate 
having learned from a very early age the value of money and 
working in order to earn that penny. It is a valuable source to 
know where money comes from. I've learned to manage money 
and that saving it is made possible by careful spending. Man- 
aging money well requires effort. The rewards, however, are 
great. It will accumulate, eliminate financial worries, and 
strengthen the sense of self-respect that accompanies financial 
independence. All this in turn will strengthen character and 
improve one's personality. 

It was great living in the days when life was quiet and 
simple, where we counted our "blessings and our pennies." I 
shall forever cherish the memories of this shared childhood joy. 



MY FIRST DOLLAR 

Ivan E. Prall 

My first dollar did not end up hanging on the wall under 
framed glass like so many first earned dollars. The reason was 
simple. It was Depression time and that dollar had a thousand 
dreams waiting its arrival. Also, the Depression explains why 



there hadn't been a first dime or nickel or even a penny. There 
just hadn't been any previous income. 

Of course, I was only ten, so it was excusable not to have 
piled up much income by then, and my folks had no money to 
give me for odd chores or allowance. In fact, in those days you 
were expected to do the chores, and I'm not sure the word 
"allowance" was in the vocabulary. 

We lived on a small farm in the center of a Swedish 
community about five miles from the nearest town. The Swed- 
ish farmers around us were all elderly, having come to this 
country in the late 1800s. I was the only child my age for some 
distance around and each day I faced a trudge of a mile plus to 
a little red brick school house on the highway. 

Some pigs, eggs, and cream were our sources of income, 
together with the sale of an occasional calf. Farming was done 
with horses. 

When school let out in June, I faced a rather dull and 
lonely summer of hoeing thistles, cutting wood, milking cows, 
etc. The chief monotony reliever was threshing time. A steam 
engine pulling the threshing machine would huff its way from 
farm to farm, and all the neighbors would arrive with their 
teams and hayracks to haul in the bundles. The neighbors' 
wives arrived to help put on a meal that stayed in your memory 
to the following year. 

Now to my first earned income. One of our neighbors 
was an elderly Swedish bachelor whose farm buildings were 
situated at a bend in the nearby Kishwaukee River. In fact. 
Combs Mill, which served most of our county, had stood at that 
location for most of the 1800s. Now, he, whose real name was 
Carl Olson, was known far and wide as "Cully pa dammit." That 
is as near as I can come to the Swedish pronunciation, which 
translated to "Cully by the dam site." 

Most of Carl's acreage lay beyond the river which in 
summer ran very shallow. A gravel road allowed him to move 
his farm machinery back and forth from the buildings to the 



fields, and his livestock grazed beyond the river. 

Occasionally a recalcitrant bovine was tardy in coming 
home for milking. So, in order to meet such urgencies, Carl had 
installed a catwalk of planks across the river. Old ten gallon 
milk cans filled with rocks rested upright on the river bottom, 
and 2" X 16' planks ran between them and were fastened to them 
with wire. 

However, when the snow melt of spring brought the 
river over his catwalk, a second route, a last resort, existed. 
Stretched between trees on opposite banks were a series of 
cables. Suspended from these was the seat of an old spring 
wagon. Positioning himself in this, he would pull himself across 
the raging torrent and drive his reluctant cows into the flood, 
forcing them home for milking. 

Since the thresher crews hauling bundles from the field 
could not be expected to dismount their wagons and open and 
close gates, fording the river, Carl approached my father and 
asked if he could hire me for one dollar to watch the gates and 
keep the cows from straying across the river and uJtimately out 
on the road. This seemed something within the capabilities of 
a ten-year-old farm boy, and hence my first dollar was earned. 

The crowning reward came, however, with the noonday 
meal. Since Carl had no wife to prepare meals, he fed the crew 
at a restaurant in town. My father, who was one of the bundle 
haulers, myself, and the other threshers piled into cars and 
drove five miles to town for the noonday meal. It was my first 
restaurant meal, and the last for some years. 

I shall never forget the hours spent on that first job. 
Also, I shall always remember with satisfaction and pride of my 
entry into the world of work. 



MY FIRST JOB IN AMERICA 

Anna Becchelli 

My first job lasted two weeks. The year was 1927 and I 
was eighteen years old. I had just arrived in America ten days 
earlier. I couldn't speak or understand English yet. I had never 
worked in a restaurant, but when a friend told my brother about 
a job for me with an Italian restaurant I was willing to try it. I 
got the job and was paid $12 a week and I thought it was a lot 
of money. I had never seen that much money at one time in 
Italy. My job in the restaurant was to clear tables when people 
finished eating, clean counters and tables, and dry dishes. 
Sometimes people would ask me for a glass of water. At first I 
couldn't understand what they said, but I soon caught on to that 
phrase. 

I remember a couple of funny things that happened to 
me while I worked those two weeks. I didn't think they were so 
funny then, but now I laugh when I remember. 

One day while I was cleaning some plates and glasses off 
from a table where a couple was sitting, all dressed up, I spilled 
some liquid down the silk stockinged legs of the lady. I was so 
mortified that I tried to tell them that if she would just take her 
stockings off I would wash them clean in the kitchen. Of course, 
they just looked at me. They couldn't understand a word I was 
saying, since I was speaking Italian. Somehow I managed to 
understand that they were telling me back, to forget about what 
happened. 

The second incident was really comic. In those days 
streetcars took you around the city in St. Louis, Missouri. I had 
to ride the streetcar six blocks to get to the restaurant. One 
morning my father came part way with me as he was going 
uptown for some business. When he got off the streetcar before 
my stop, he said, "I will pay for you no w, so you won't have to pay 
when it's time for your stop." I said to my dad, "OK." Well, when 
it came time for my stop I got up and went to the door and the 



conductor didn't open the door. I stood there and he said 
something to me. I couldn't understand him and he said 
something again. Now I figured out that he was telling me to 
pay before he could let me off, so I said, "Papa pay." I didn't know 
any more English. The conductor got angry and said some more. 
My face turned beet red because passengers were behind me 
waiting to get off and the rest of the people in the streetcar 
started laughing. Then the conductor started to shout. I knew 
he was cussing although I couldn't understand the words, but 
I wasn't about to pay again since I knew my dad had paid for me 
already, so with a beet red face I kept repeating, "Papa pay, 
Papa pay." Then he had to let me off because he was holding up 
the rest of the passengers. When I got home from work I was 
furious at my dad for putting me through that experience and 
told him, "THANK YOU, DAD, for putting me through that 
embarrassment, and don't you ever do that to me again!!" 

Once a week at the restaurant they sold spaghetti to 
construction workers who came into the kitchen through the 
back door. For 25(2 the workers bought a big cardboard bucket 
full of good spaghetti. The cook would ask me each day what I 
wanted to eat for lunch. I couldn't understand what he was 
sajdng in English so everything he said to me I would answer, 
"Ok." He would say, "Stew?" I would answer, "Ok." "Roast?" he 
would ask. "Ok," I would answer. Then he would give me a 
sample of everything he cooked up that day. Everything he 
made was good. Once in a while he got drunk and didn't show 
up for the evening and the owner would panic, but he always 
had already made the evening meals, and the owner just had to 
heat them up. 

This first job was not easy for a new American lass, but 
it was a good experience, preparing me to succeed in the new 
land of promise. 



WORKING AS A WAITRESS 

Phyllis T. Fenton 

In the summer of 1935, 1 got my first job. Since I could 
type, my father urged that I get office experience, perhaps in a 
typing pool, but no one, not even the family friend who ran a 
small office, would take a chance on a high school girl in times 
of economic depression. 

I pursued other leads through the Tribune want ads and 
answered one for "Waitress Wanted." After an interview with 
the personnel manager of the DeMets restaurant chain, whose 
headquarters were on Madison Street just west of the Chicago 
Loop, I was given a one day training session, then assigned to 
the tea room in the Board of Trade. Located one floor below 
street level, the tea room served lunch to the secretaries and 
office workers in the massive building at 141 West Jackson 
Boulevard, the same building which today, as then, throws its 
long shadow down LaSalle Street. 

The job covered the noon shift-four hours a day for five 
days. My pay was $4.50 a week. When I complained about this 
skimpy pay, my father said that on his first job in 1905 he 
earned but four dollars a week for a ten-hour day. I was moving 
on up! 

Wages were paid Friday afternoon by cash, in a small 
brown envelope, and 25c were deducted for starching the white 
apron and collar. The black uniform, bought at time of employ- 
ment, cost $1 and was laundered at home. Waitresses then, as 
now, were expected to plump out their base pay with tips, but 
tea room patrons in 1935 seldom tipped, and if they did it was 
a generous nickel or dime. They, too, were working girls. 

The tea room was large and squarish, its decor soft blue 
and gray. Along three walls were "deuces" or two-seater booths 
each lit with a lamp. Arranged over the floor were tables-for- 
four. Scattered throughout were the bus stands for napkins, 
silverware and water pitchers. 



145 



Daily routines began with inspection, that we were neat 
and clean and all hair wisps tucked under the net required by 
state law. Then we set up doilies and silverware at our stations 
and stood sentry, tray under the arm, until one of the two 
middle-aged hostesses in black dress and white lace collar 
escorted a customer to a table and laid down a menu, an act 
which ended the veneer of tea room gentility. From then on, 
under the buzz of patron conversation, the pace quickened for 
the waitress. 

First, she filled the water glass; then she took the order. 
Most customers ordered from the menu daily specials ranging 
from the spaghetti or meat loaf at 35c , upward to the 55(Z lamb 
chops. Each special included a hard crust roll, butter, dessert, 
and drink. The maverick customer who ordered a la carte, 
however, challenged the greenhorn waitress to learn quickly 
that a club sandwich had three layers of bread and a la carte pies 
were cut larger than those on the special. A gracious spirit 
characterized most patrons; a few were picky, rude and squeezed 
out every inch of service. Indeed, the tenderfoot waitress had to 
balance people as well as trays. 

Trays were filled in a clattering kitchen by the waitress. 
From a long counter, she picked up the salads and sandwiches 
for the daily specials which were being made by women and girls 
on the other side of the counter. From large metal vats, other 
kitchen workers ladled up the special DeMets spaghetti and 
sauce. At the entrance to the dining room, a cashier rang up the 
bill and checked each tray for extras such as rolls, butter, and 
lemon wedges. This kitchen administration was under the 
scanning eye of the head chef, a stocky, grufTman named Tony. 

After the customers were gone, tables cleared and 
washed, and salt and pepper shakers filled, we ate a free lunch 
at the back tables near the kitchen, usually the 35c special. A 
surplus of lamb chops, however, would be distributed by the 
chef, Tony. 

Between Jackson Boulevard and my home at 66th Street, 



it was a half hour ride on the Clark-Wentworth streetcar, for 
which 14c a day was budgeted, leaving me $3.55 for worldly 
pleasure. Sometimes I stayed downtown with friends for a soda 
and a cup of tea at Walgreen's where a fortune teller read the 
leaves, or I'd splurge 35c on a first-run movie with vaudeville at 
the Chicago Theater. Other days I might meet a girlfriend in 
Field's third floor waiting room and browse through the store. 

Occasionally, before work, I watched the action of the 
Board of Trade from the visitor's gallery. Here, the traders 
shouted their buy and sell orders from the wheat and corn pits. 

Four years later, after two years of college, I got a job on 
LaSalle Street near the Board of Trade in the offices of the 
Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company. There I earned $65 a month, 
and instead of riding the street car I took the speedier but more 
expensive Rock Island suburban. In this job, hat and gloves, not 
hair nets, were mandatory. 

A few times I spent lunch hour in the blue and gray tea 
room where a gray haired lady in black dress and white lace 
collar escorted me to a wall table lit by a lamp, then handed me 
a menu. When a breathless child waitress whipped out a pencil, 
I ordered the 35c spaghetti special, and when I left, now that I 
was a LaSalle Street office worker, I slid my nickel gratuity 
under the tea cup. 



TEACHING AT ROUND PRAIRIE SCHOOL 

Elma Strunk 

Whoever said going out on your own for your first job was 
easy never experienced that formidable task in the mid-Twen- 
ties, when times were hard and jobs scarce, especially if that job 
was teaching a rural school in the far comer of Jersey County, 
a long way from home and on dirt roads-almost impassible in 



146 



winter. 

Anyway, about sixty years ago I was faced with the need 
to make my own way doing something besides housekeeping if 
I wanted to succeed in life, and also if I wanted to eat. 

I had always wanted to teach school. I had a wonderful 
high school English teacher who inspired and encouraged me. 
She helped me to know how to write applications and how to go 
about applying in person. This, of course, stood me in good stead 
when applying for the "job" in the rural school of Jersey County. 
For a very timid person from the country, this was very hard. 

However, I got names of schools from the county super- 
intendent of schools that would need teachers the next season. 
In order to teach, I needed a Teacher's Certificate. I needed to 
take an examination to get one. I took the examination without 
any "qualms" of passing. After all, I had gone to a country school 
for eight years, and was a high school graduate. Was I ever 
surprised when I got my grades: I had failed. The county 
superintendent issued me an Emergency Certificate good for 
one year so I could keep my job. 

I was fortunate to have already been hired at a school, 
Round Prairie, in the very southern part of the county. I guess 
because of the good heart of one of the directors who was Dad's 
cousin, I got a salary of $60 per month for seven months. 

I had to board in the district. I was able to find a place 
about a mile from the school at $3 per week from Sunday 
evening until Friday morning. Here again this was a relative. 
Mom's second or third cousin. They were an elderly couple. 
There was no indoor plumbing. I wasn't too used to that 
anyway. There was no heat in my room upstairs. She had 
cleaned the former storage room so I could stay there. It got cold 
up there in the winter! The water would freeze in the washbowl 
so baths were a minimum and when it got too cold. Aunt Ella 
fixed me a place in the kitchen pantry where I could wash my 
face and hands and dress behind the big heating stove in the 
living room if I got up and at it while Uncle John was doing his 



milking. You can be sure I got there on time. 

I would dress, eat breakfast, and be on my way to school 
by shortly after seven. I needed to be at school by 8:00 a.m. and 
school started at 9:00 a.m. Kids began to arrive anjrtime after 
8:30 a.m. I walked in rain, shine, snow, or whatever. There were 
no snow days. 

When I got to school, I had to carry in whatever, and go 
inspect the outdoor toilets, as you never knew what might 
happen to them the night before. They had to be cleaned before 
the children arrived. In the fall and winter you had to build fires 
because they seldom held overnight. 

My schoolhouse was like others in rural areas. It was a 
one-room building, set out in the country. There were no close 
neighbors. It had a very high ceiling, about twelve to fourteen 
feet high. I'm sure they knew nothing about insulation in those 
days. There were three tall windows on each side, two in the 
back, and a door in the front. Fire exits didn't exist in those 
days. There were wood floors that were not well finished. 
Blackboards were all around the room except a place in the back 
which had pegs for children to hang their coats and shelves for 
the lunch buckets. Some of the blackboards in the front were 
slate, but toward the rear of the room they were boards painted 
black. The walls and ceiling were painted an ugly grey and 
really needed another coat. It wasn't the most cheerful setting. 
The room was sparsely furnished: a big monstrous furnace, a 
teacher's desk and chair, a bench for the water bucket, a 
recitation bench in the front of the room, and a big old baby 
grand piano that wouldn't play. There were also the traditional 
row of seats all fastened to the floor and graduated in size from 
those for eighth graders to those for beginners. That recitation 
bench was not fastened to the floor and was supposed to sit right 
in front of the teacher's desk, where each class came to recite. 

My first day I arrived early as I hadn't seen the inside of 
the building. I had no key, as there wasn't one. You didn't "lock 
up." It was scary. The directors or someone had cleaned and 



prepared for opening day. The children came early to see the 
new teacher and also to try to get the seat they wanted, 
especially the back ones. When they all arrived, there were 
twenty-one of them, all sizes from first grade through eighth 
grade and from age five to an eighth grader fifteen years old. 
The fifteen-year-old was a very large boy who came to school 
when Dad didn't need him to work at home. He was trying to 
get through eighth grade. Some of them talked to me, but most 
of them just looked and whispered. I was embarrassed and 
scared, but at 9:00 I rang the bell, a little old hand bell that had 
belonged to someone's grandmother. Everyone took a seat, and 
my job began. We tried to sing an opening song (I couldn't carry 
a tune). One of the younger boys knew "everything," so he led 
us. Our flag was a sorry specimen, but we said the Pledge of 
Allegiance. Our day was spent in getting our names, ages, and 
grades straightened out and doing assignments for the next 
day. 

I found some of the children didn't have school books and 
no money to buy them. Each pupil was supposed to supply his 
own books in those days. They all tried to get secondhand books. 
I found there was a family of five who needed many things, so 
when I went home the county superintendent helped me get 
some books. I also found this family had their lunch all in one 
bucket and not very much at that, but they shared willingly and 
were always happy. 

Recess and noontime were spent in playing games I'd 
never heard of and was expected to play with them. The biggest 
problem at recess was it was supposed to be "go to the toilet 
time," and most of them would forget until the bell rang, or a 
couple of older ones would stay so long the little ones didn't get 
to go. On the first day, and sometimes in the first week, you had 
little ones who wet themselves and there was no way to take 
care of them except to love them. 

At 4:00 p.m. I told them all good-bye, drew a sigh of relief, 
shed a few (quite a lot in my case) tears, swept the floor, dusted. 



straightened everything for the next day, gathered an armload 
of homework, and started the long walk back to Aunt Ella's, 
thinking I had surely chosen the wrong job. As time went on I 
got settled and loved it for the fifteen years I was there. 

Getting to the job from home was something else. The 
folks would see that I got to the bus in Jerseyville (about fifteen 
miles away). I would ride the bus to East Newborn, just a place 
with a country store and four or five houses. I would get off at 
the store. It was closed on Sunday evening. I would walk the 
four miles to Aunt Ella's right past the schoolhouse. It was 
usually dark, especially in the winter, by the time I got to her 
house. I was tired and sometimes wet and muddy or snow 
covered. It was a hard and lonely trip, but I had a job. Worrying 
about my trips in the winter. Mom insisted she buy me long 
underwear and extra heavy sox and gloves. I had vowed when 
I quit wearing long underwear after eighth grade graduation 
that I would never wear such underclothes again, but I did and 
was glad. Four miles is a long walk in the cold. I didn't have 
warm clothes as I had spent my high school years in Jerseyville 
where it was warm. I was to get to Aunt Essie's, who lived at 
McClusky on the way and stayed all night there. They met me 
at the bus, kept me Saturday night, and put me back on the bus 
to get to East Newborn. Of course, the bus was late because of 
the snow. I didn't get to the store until almost dark. Mrs. 
Tompkins was waiting for me and wanted me to stay all night 
with them, but I knew I had to get to Aunt Ella's as she would 
worry about me. There was no snow plow, so I walked the wagon 
tracks, and sometimes there weren't any so I just made my own 
path. I got to Aunt Ella's about 9:00 p.m. and it was dark. I was 
so cold. I had to carry my suitcase all that way besides some 
homework I had taken home. Aunt Ella was waitingfor me with 
hot food and lots of hot chocolate. She was so good to me. Often 
times in the winter I only went as far as Aunt Essie's for the 
weekend. 

About a month before school was out. Uncle John 



became very ill, and I had to change boarding places. The new 
place was closer to school. The lady was so nice to me. She did 
my laundry so I wouldn't have to take it home. She helped me 
prepare extra food for the school picnic held at the school the day 
school was out. 

I think school went along very well. Anyway this is 
a story not about the school but my first job, the working 



conditions, the pay, the hardships, the perseverance it took, and 
the valuable experiences I had. When I finished the year, I had 
a paycheck of $60 left for me to live on through the next several 
months and a burning desire to be the very best teacher I could. 
I went to school and taught young people for many years. 





L y\. 







V\\\ ^Ke Qnt'V^oom 5c/iool 



THE ONE-ROOM SCHOOL 

Just a few remain. Most of them have been revised by 
time and change, but on occasion one may observe rural one- 
room schools. Sometimes they are miniature ghost houses in 
ruin. Like ancient untended bams, they sag mournfully amid 
the overgrown grass, weeds, and thickets. Now and again, an 
ancient foundation, the remnant of an old schoolhouse, is to be 
found. But there are also remodeled and venerable old one- 
room schools that have become homes. Perhaps a room has been 
added; however, they are unmistakenly the old schools reborn. 
How very fitting this is. Once again, they ring with laughter, 
excitement, squeals of joy, tears, and hope. For yet another 
time, the happiness, dreams, plans, and the superb consensus 
value system that both built and accompanied the world's 
greatest people and nation are at home in the little school- 
houses. Hope glimmers. 

It is true, of course, that all movements are not better 
than those they displaced. It is likewise correct that sometimes 
looking back is wisdom; the contemporaneous can be much 
worse than what transpired years earlier. So it may be in regard 
to schooling. Indeed, the outmoded, ancient, one- room schools 
speak with a profound and remarkable voice. They were very, 
very special. 

They speak of local people, rather than the federal 
government, controlling the schools; and families were respon- 
sible in caring for their own. There was the consensus, high- 
level value system that Myrdal referred to as the hope of 
mankind. The religion of Jesus Christ was taught everywhere 
in the schools. Discipline and hard work were cardinal purposes 
of the enterprise. Students were made to feel well about 
themselves when they performed admirably and badly when 
they behaved badly. They were taught the value of hard work 
and respect for their parents and elders. Moreover, there was 
no more important objective than building moral people who 



were successfully acculturated and socialized to succeed in the 
majority culture. Of such goals and objectives, a great people 
was built, and an exalted nation resulted. 

But the schools were also a model of pedagogical excel- 
lence and experimentation. So many curricular developments 
central to the curricula of the rural school have been rediscov- 
ered in the current era-and are viewed by many as revolution- 
ary. Most of these remarkable new breakthroughs, though, are 
as old as the one-room rural schools. 

The Massachusetts Law of 1642 resulted in universal 
and compulsory schooling for American youth. Then the North- 
west Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 mandated that in the 
Northwestern Territory one square-mile section from each 
township of thirty-six square miles be used for township schools. 
This, of course, was the beginning of the one-room school. Thus, 
the community-in this case the township-controlled schooling 
for its youth, and the superb sense (and truth) of community 
consensus provided an effective model for the acculturation and 
socialization of the students. 

It was these most excellent rural schools of which the 
essayists wrote. Indeed, the selections provide a compelling 
and effective glimpse backward in time. The doors of the schools 
are opened again, and the reader may judge the quite remark- 
able nature of elementary schooling in the one-room schools. 

Some of the memoirs share unforgettable experiences. 
Eva Hapner records her very great joy and excitement atten- 
dant to a Christmas celebration and explains her love for a very 
special teacher. Marie Freesmeyer shares the terror accompa- 
nying a tornado. Focusing on the practical of the program, 
Virginia Rhodes explains her admiration for a practicing school 
bank. 

Explaining the laws and logistics affecting the schools. 
Fern Hancock describes the varied community uses of the 
school building, and explains school procedure. 

She is also joined by Louise Van Etten in analyzing the 



152 



life of a teacher. Louise graphically explains the trials and 
perils she faced as a neophyte instructor. Mary DeWitt adds to 
the portrait of the life of a new teacher. 

Katherine Cravens reveals the logistics of the school 
room and the makeup of the curricula. Expanding this informa- 
tion, Ida Simmons, Helen Harless, Blondelle Lashbrook, and 
Anna Rittenhouse reveal information about the curriculum and 
the nature of the schooling. 



From the other side of the desk, Robert Tefertillar 
expounds on the trials and tribulations of being a student. 

Emerging from these essays is a comprehensive view of 
the schooling of another age. It is a charming portrait that so 
well demonstrates that something very special occurred in the 
fabled one-room schools that represented a fine and proud era, 
the best of which remains as a model for better schooling in the 
present era. 



Alfred J. Lindsey 



CHRISTMAS AT THE COUNTRY SCHOOL 

Eva Hapner 

Waking up, I rubbed my yet sleepy eyes, pulled the yarn- 
knotted, black and red block comforter over my head, and 
nestled back into the warm inviting arms of the feather bed. I 
could hear my mother bustling around in the kitchen, shaking 
the grates of the old cook stove, rekindling the few remaining 
coals with corn cobs. An aroma, a mixture of brewing coffee and 
bacon sizzling in the cast iron skillet, wafted through my door 
and gave me that wonderful feeling of security that all was well. 

There was something exciting about this morning, a 
feeling I couldn't explain. Why was it different from all the 
other three hundred and sixty four days of the year? Sleep had 
erased it from my memory, but suddenly it came back to me in 
a new surge of joy. Today was the Christmas program at the 
little country school I attended. 

With happiness in my heart, I skipped to the window, 
pressing my nose against the frost laden pane, leaving an 
imprint of my nose and mouth on the window. 

I gazed on a world suddenly turned into a fairyland. 
Several inches of snow had fallen during the night, making the 
barnyard an unfamiliar magical kingdom. The old rusty pump 
had been adorned with a coat of ermine and the fence posts stood 
like a group of ghosts who had suddenly decided to take a walk 
on the dazzling carpet of diamonds. 

I grabbed my clothes and made a dash for the old warm 
morning heater. Its rosey belly greeted me and cast out a warm 
glow across the hand-woven rug. 

The silence of the morning was broken by the sound of 
sleigh bells jingling in the distance. Pulling up in front of our 
house was our neighbor's bobsled drawn by two beautiful and 
spirited dapple gray mares, respondent in red and green har- 
ness in observance of the festive season. 

At the helm of the sled was our neighbor, who with his 



little round belly and red stocking cap reminded me of jolly St. 
Nick himself. Smoke curled from his corn cob pipe, circled over 
his head, and cut a path through the frosty air. Mr. Vancil gave 
the signal and my three brothers and I climbed over the bed of 
the shiny red sled. He tapped the horses and away we flew over 
the shimmering snow. The two-and-one-half mile ride to the 
school seemed all too short as we nibbled on homemade molas- 
ses cookies and sang "Jingle Bells." 

Entering the school, we were greeted by Miss Alice, who 
had a smile for each of us. She was our angel in disguise. Words 
cannot describe the beauty of that little school room. Paper 
chains crisscrossed diagonally across the room. In the corner 
stood the proud little pine tree. It was decorated with popcorn 
and cranberry strands. No electric light illuminated it, but each 
little candle winked and blinked its sparkling light. The scent 
of the pine boughs permeated the air. 

Hanging on the tree was a bright red ball, and reaching 
out her arms to some lucky little girl was a beautiful doll my 
mother had dressed for that special one whose name my brother 
had drawn. 

The day went by quickly. After a short program, gifts 
were exchanged, teacher passed out treats, and we were on our 
way home because already dusk had begun to appear. 



A ONE-ROOM SCHOOL IN MACOUPIN COUNTY 

Katherine Nola Thornton Cravens 

There was a shortage of teachers during the years of 
World War II. The condition was created by the drafting of men 
for the military service and the need for women to fill essential 
positions. By 1943, a high school diploma and the desire to 
teach were all the qualifications needed to instruct in the 



154 



elementary grades. Each of us who chose to teach was provided 
with a War of Emergency Certificate. Ordinarily, a teaching 
certificate required two years of college. 

To teach school, especially in a little country school, had 
been my deep ambition since the years I attended Miles Station 
school, District #172, near Brighton, Illinois. However, in 1943, 
I had a good job with Owens-Illinois Glass Company in Alton. 
The shortage of gasoline discouraged traveling, and shift work 
allowed little time to investigate the teaching positions avail- 
able. As a result, I worked in Alton for another year. 

In 1944, at the age of twenty-one, I applied for a teaching 
position through the office of Mr. I. K. Jurgensmeyer, County 
Superintendent of Schools in Macoupin County. From his 
office, I received a list of schools needing teachers for the coming 
term. About halfway down the list was Ness, District #161, a 
little school located two miles east of Bunker Hill, Illinois. I 
knew I had to teach at Ness School! The reason was personal 
and entirely without logic. I was influenced by my attraction for 
a Naval petty officer having the same name. 

I applied for the position at Ness School one evening in 
July. So desperate was the need, I was hired on the spot. I gave 
the exterior of the building a quick appraisal that evening. As 
there was no electricity, I did not enter the dark interior. I 
returned to Alton to work for the remainder of the summer. 

I saw the class room of Ness School for the first time on 
the fifth day of September. I arrived early so I could get 
organized before the students arrived. 

The first week of school, which was only four days in 
length because of the Labor Day holiday, seemed to last forever. 
I not only felt out of my element, I was doubtful of my ability. By 
Friday, I wasn't at all certain I wanted to return for another 
week. 

I suspected I was being too lenient with the children who 
didn't seem to notice I was a novice. I had to become familiar 
with a large quantity of books, workbooks, and records. My 



carefully prepared daily schedule had been difficult to follow. 
Apparently, I had not allowed myself time to get adjusted as my 
assignment seemed more difficult than I had anticipated. 

At the end of the second week, however, I was feeling 
totally confident. From that day forward, I knew I was in 
control of my position. I was becoming completely absorbed in 
every aspect of my work. The children treated me with respect, 
and I was accepted by the friendly community. 

Driving along the country roads near Bunker Hill in the 
fall was absolute pleasure. The summerlike days of autumn, 
with their blazing colors, balmy breezes, wild flowers growing 
in profusion along the roadside, and the buzzing of insects, gave 
me the pleasant awareness I had experienced as a child. The 
delightful sound of ringing school bells reverbeating across 
fields and woodland was as delightful as I had remembered. 

A one-room school was a school where all eight grades 
were taught in one room. The classroom had the usual two 
cloakrooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. It had the 
standard entrance hall, a library, and a kitchenette. There was 
the usual coal room and another addition used for storage and 
kindling (material, such as dry wood, used for starting the fire 
in the furnace). 

The average monthly attendance in District #161 was 
twelve children. Several students moved away and others 
moved into the district during the school term. There were no 
sixth or eighth grade students at Ness School during the 1944- 
45 school year. A system had been devised to incorporate many 
classes allowing more time for discussion. This plan united the 
fifth grade with the sixth grade, and the seventh grade with the 
eighth grade, in all classes with the exception of grammar and 
arithmetic. 

School children in the Midwest had a special war project 
in the fall of 1944. On their field trips, they gathered the 
milkweed pods which grew in abundance along the fence rows 
and country lanes. The silk from these pods was used in the 



making of parachutes for the armed forces. All pods collected 
were taken to the fall teacher's meeting in Carlinville and given 
to the official in charge of the operation. 

This was a fun project for the students as they not only 
collected milkweed pods, but also persimmons, nuts, colorful 
leaves, flowers, grasshoppers, and all the things that interest 
normal, inquisitive children. 

Regretfully, the milkweed pod project in Macoupin 
County met with a disaster. The pods were not stored in a well- 
ventilated place where they could dry sufficiently. As a result, 
hundreds of pounds of raw silk were ruined. Because the person 
in charge of the project had a German name, the children were 
convinced the project had been sabotaged. 

The teacher of a country school not only taught lessons, 
she was a janitor, a mother to the younger children, and a 
mediator in all things. She made decisions on the playground, 
settled personal differences peacefully, and determined the 
extent of minor illnesses. She cleaned wounds, applied 
Mercurochrome, and pressed on bandaids. She spent her lunch 
hours listening to youthful conversations which covered a 
multitude of subjects. She pumped water from the well and, like 
the students, she used the outdoor toilet. 

Maintaining the furnace took extra effort, and occasion- 
ally it interfered with classroom routine. One of the older boys 
helped me with the janitorial duties during the severe weather, 
for which I paid him five dollars a month. 

From my home in Gillespie, I drove to and from Bunker 
Hill until the winter snows started. Then I roomed in the little 
town until spring. Besides inclement weather, I had difficulty 
making my gasoline ration coupons go far enough. 

In our study of history, we often discussed current 
events. My seventh grade students, ranging in age from twelve 
to fourteen, displayed interest and expressed intelligent ideas 
on world affairs. One of the subjects of discussion was the 
Rhineland battle which was in progress that winter. The class 



stated their personal views as there were few available facts. 
Military secrets kept civilian knowledge at a minimum. Grade 
school children spent little time listening to radio broadcasts 
and very little time at reading the newspaper. Considering all 
things, the boys and girls were equally knowledgeable and 
imaginative. However, the boys' ideas were endowed with more 
gory detail than those of the girls. 

By late February, I was regretting the decision I had 
made to take a lonely teaching post for which I had given up 
many things: my friends, adult companionship, and more than 
half my wages. After a short trip to Texas, though, and the 
arrival of bright spring weather and outdoor activities, my 
spirit was restored. 

On the last Friday in April, the children and I went to a 
nearby wooded area for a picnic. We deposited our food in a safe 
place, and put our bottles of soda pop in the cold water of the 
stream to cool. Then the children took me to a place where 
pansies grew. Thinking the children had confused pansies with 
violets, I was surprised to see an uncultivated hillside covered 
with giant purple pansies. I was thrmed. 

Upon returning to our picnic sit: , we ate roasted wieners, 
toasted marshmallows, and drank our cold pop before returning 
to the school building to say our last goodbyes. 

The school year ended on an upward note. I had 
completed all the work I had planned to accomplish during the 
school year, and the board of directors had asked me to return 
for the fall term. I had grown attached to the children and was 
reluctant to leave, but I declined the offer. 

I had given up my $50 a week job at the Glass Company 
to begin a teaching career for $115 per month. I have not 
regretted my choice. Time spent at the Glass Company was only 
incidental. Teaching a country school fulfilled a dream. It was 
an adventure with a lasting advantage. In addition to gaining 
a valuable experience, I was living future memories. 



156 



CERES SCHOOL: MEMORIES OF A 
RURAL CLASSROOM 

Ida Harper Simmons 

The road sign with one word, Ceres, might easily be 
overlooked by the average traveler on Route 67. But for me, the 
crossroads formed by the highway and a country road located a 
mile south of the Morgan-Green County line mark the begin- 
ning point to wherever the intervening years have taken me. In 
my mind's eye, I see the remodeled building on the east side of 
the highway as the country school which my sister and I 
attended in the Twenties. The high concrete steps leading to the 
west door of the neatly painted school house were our entrance 
to the world beyond our farm home. 

In the main room beyond the cloak room, rows of desks 
ranged from those for older students on the south to the little 
ones on the north. The teacher's desk was placed precisely front 
center. To its left was a slippery recitation bench. The 
blackboard across the east wall had pulldown maps above it. 
My sister says her sense of direction was marked for life because 
the left and right of the maps were oriented north and south, not 
east and west. 

My education began at an early age because I constantly 
begged to go with my older sister to visit school. I soon had the 
primer memorized, and my parents succumbed to my pleas to 
start school just four months after my fifth birthday. I wonder 
if our teachers realized how easily they provided for individual 
differences. By listening to other classes recite, each of us could 
be learning something at all times. 

Our first day of school found us wearing new gingham 
dresses. We were armed with wooden pencil boxes with sliding 
covers and a new writing tablet. Sometimes these had a pretty 
picture on the cover, but more often they were "Big ChieP 
tablets with an Indian in full head dress on the front. My sister 
kept hers looking neat, but mine usually had its cover torn. 



Erasers, crayons, and a ruler completed our supplies. All 
textbooks were furnished by the district. 

Pictures of poets hung on the painted classroom walls, 
with the New England poets grouped in a single frame. We 
probably learned more literature in our eight years at Ceres 
School than today's high school students. Poems were memo- 
rized, and I can still recall portions or sometimes all of my 
favorites, including "The Swing," "The Village Blacksmith," 
"The Highwayman," "Snowbound," "Evangeline," and "The 
Courtship of Miles Standish." I also recall reciting Henry 
VanDyke's "America for Me" at a school program. 

We had a library, too. This played an important part in 
our education because there were no public libraries near us. 
New books were exciting and I can still visualize Dr. Doolittle's 
cover and the delightful drawing. It was years later when I 
learned that "Canary Islands" was pronounced the same as the 
bird. I had silently read it as "Can'ery Islands!" This was true 
of many words. As a college freshman, my English professor 
was perplexed over the disparity between my speaking vocabu- 
lary and my considerably larger written one. 

We also learned to spell by using word lists and by the 
motivation of spelling bees and other incentives. We received a 
spelling certificate for one hundred perfect lessons. When we 
had collected five certificates, we were awarded a perfect 
spelling pin ornamented by the initials PS. 

Penmanship was taught, but not the ornate script of 
preceding generations. We performed the oval and push-pull 
exercises, dippingour metal-tipped pens into the lidded inkwells 
located in the upper corner of our desks. The ink had a peculiar 
odor, and it was sometimes frozen on winter mornings. 

Arithmetic does not hold an important place in my 
memory, probably because it was difficult for me. My sister 
Delia recalls the two hundred thought problems in the eighth 
grade text which included the practical aspects of computing 
the number of bushels in a corn crib, the amount of shingles for 



a roof, or the quantity of paint or wall paper for a given area. 
Students were required to work these problems independently 
and check their accuracy by referring to the answers printed in 
the back of the book. Delia became so proficient in these 
problems that neighboring farmers asked her to figure the 
amount of grain in their bins and cribs. 

We learned geography from large brown texts. Colored 
maps and black and white illustrations did little to help me 
comprehend the world beyond our immediate experience. His- 
tory was also a part of the curricula. I remember studying 
physiology, and in the upper grades we had a health book which 
we studied. Grammar was a separate subject. 

Orthography was taught to seventh and eighth graders. 
I regret that this subject has become obsolete because it con- 
sisted of the study of the history and derivation of words. Many 
students found it extremely interesting, a fact that should 
dispel the misconception that rural schools taught only by rote 
learning. Years later, Delia and I used our old orthography 
texts to teach our own students. 

Final examinations were the climax of elementary edu- 
cation. My sister took them at the end of both seventh and 
eighth grades, but the requirement changed. I took them only 
in the eighth grade. Students from each township in Green 
County went to a central location to write the exams. Our 
teachers did little to prepare us for the ordeal and did not go 
with us to take them. Delia took finals in May, two months after 
the close of the seven-month school term. During those months 
she spent a great deal of time sitting at the top of the stairs 
memorizing facts and gazing out the window wishing she could 
be outdoors. No doubt, our mother coached her because our 
parents took a great interest in our education. 

My memory of the final examination is on a lighter note. 
My sister had already faced the unknown, and I, having shared 
her experience, was less fearful. I recall my father taking me to 
Athensville on examination day. To keep my mind off the 



impending trial, he told me that we were going through 
Yellowstone Park and the jersey cows on the hillside were 
actually yellow stones. We received impressive eighth grade 
diplomas after passing our finals. 

Our teachers all left some impressions, but it is impos- 
sible clearly to picture them. Miss James, who taught at Ceres 
for several years, had auburn hair and wore horn-rimmed 
glasses. She often came home with us and stayed overnight. 
This was a great treat and my parents were generous in their 
hospitality. 

Delia had a male teacher when she was in first grade. 
Since she was the only child who walked west from school, he 
would often walk part way with her or carry her on his shoul- 
ders. He was our distant cousin and probably felt a responsibil- 
ity for her safety. Many years later, we read his obituary in the 
newspaper, and calculated that he was eighteen years old when 
he taught at Ceres. 

Mr. Frazier was my sixth and seventh grade teacher. 
His sister was my best friend, and his two little brothers were 
also his pupils. He was always kind, and his special treat for us 
was divinity fudge made by his mother. 

One teacher, a young woman, was evidently unsatisfac- 
tory. I recall the school directors, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Marsh, and 
my father, having some kind of conference with her. My eighth 
grade teacher was a very young woman. She endeared herself 
by telling me that my new pink checked dress made me look 
pretty. This was a great compliment because I perceived myself 
as an ugly duckling. 

We gained a different kind of knowledge as we played 
games at recess or sat together eating the lunches that we 
brought in tin buckets. Recess was a time for establishing 
lifelong friendships, an important aspect for Delia and me 
because our farm was too isolated for nearby playmates. 

There were also happy times at school when our families 
gathered for programs and basket dinners. Here we had the 



158 



opportunity to recite poems or participate in plays. 

Ceres School students were usually happy and well- 
behaved. We learned to make the most of things, just as our 
parents coped with the uncertainties of bountiful harvests or 
crop failures. 

A school picture taken in 1924 reminds me that the 
paths from Ceres have led in diverse directions. Of the twenty- 
seven students pictured, five have earned college degrees and 
entered the teaching profession. Three others became minis- 
ters, and two are minister s wives. Some are farmers still living 
in the Ceres school district. Three died young, and one lost his 
life in World War II. Some are unaccounted for, but to my 
knowledge none took the road to crime or prison. 

The years at Ceres School have not only left me a legacy 
of pleasant memories, but also a wealth of experiences which 
have enriched both my professional and personal life. 



THE ONE-ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE 

Robert L. Tefertillar 

The one-room schoolhouse of a half century ago was 
bitterly cold in winter, stifling hot in late spring, and recalls 
pleasurable and painful memories. 

The absolute authority over this approximate 30 x 40 
foot domain was the teacher. My schoolmaster was always a 
male being hired for brawn as well as brain ... for practical 
reasons. 

He was a janitor, principal, custodian, coach, and disci- 
plinarian — a prime example of a "big frog in a little puddle." He 
taught Readin', 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic to the tune of a hickory 
stick, literally] If students flunked a grade, they took it over 
until they finally made it, or got big enough to lick the teacher. 



Some brawny sixteen and seventeen-year-old farm boys 
were kept in the same grade a couple of years *"'>*'ore being 
promoted. This is no reflection on their intelligence. In the 
Depression years, farm youngsters missed many weeks of 
school, especially during spring planting and fall harvest. 
Money was hard to come by, and the value of education was 
considered important but not as vital as eating. School was, of 
necessity, secondary. 

Many a strapping eighth grade lad graduated via his 
final victorious confrontation with Mr. Cooper — in the sporting 
arena, the alley behind the coal shed. 

The schoolmaster's rule extended from the school house, 
over the playground, to the willows by the creek. On the far side 
of the creek, we could thumb our noses at the academician with 
exuberant impunity. We did so on the last day of school before 
summer vacation. 

It was traditional to cross the creek and scream at the 
teacher, "School's out, school's out, teacher let the monkeys 
out." We also added insult to injury by calling him a monkey- 
faced baboon of a bully. 

We never worried about his remembrance of the inci- 
dent. At the time, it seemed that summer vacation would last 
forever, and fall seemed light years in the future. Naturally, 
revenge burned in his disciplinarian heart all summer, and he 
was waiting in the autumn with a new, and even bigger, hickory 
stick. This was expected and faced with the stoicism of con- 
demned prisoners without chance of parole for the next nine 
months. 

The playground boasted a broken teeter-totter, two 
unsafe swdngs, a makeshift ball diamond, a bedraggled, netless 
basketball hoop on the coal shed, and a small mound to play 
king-of-the-hill. We were spared adult spectators and supervi- 
sion of our pick-up baseball, football, and basketball games. We 
played for fun without parent pressure. 

Marbles, mumbley-peg, kick-the-can, hop-scotch, jacks, 



159 



baseball, and pum-pum-pull-away were popular recess activi- 
ties. Snotty, sophisticated seventh and eighth graders some- 
times sneaked behind the coal shed to pay that stupid "post 
ofTice" kissing game. I thought that was stupid until about the 
seventh grade when I became an enthusiastic player. 

Located on the fringe of the playground were the out- 
houses and the coal shed. The boys' outhouse had a paint- 
peeling, white, high board fence which enclosed a long, narrow, 
wooden trough to be used (but rarely was) as a urinal. The 
bathroom facilities for the girls were even more spartan, having 
no fence. Its only ornamentation was the familiar quarter moon 
carved above the door. The only other building on the grounds 
was the coal shed. 

The traditional signal to be excused from the school 
room to answer a "call of nature" was raising your hand. The 
length of time you expected to be gone and the urgency of the 
jaunt was designated by holding up one or two fingers. A two 
fingered signal would usually get you out of the classroom for as 
long as ten minutes. Naturally kids took advantage of this 
method to escape. This was especially prevalent in the fall or 
spring. During bad winter weather, the outhouse trips de- 
creased by fifty percent. 

Holding up four fingers indicated you wished to visit the 
library located in the back of the room. The library consisted of 
one ancient, glass-fronted book case. With the exception of a few 
fiction books by Burroughs, Twain, London, Grey, and Harte, 
the most exciting reading were the Iliad and the Odyssey. 

The schoolhouse, in addition to the American flag, had 
a picture of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln staring 
down at the pupils. Most kids liked Abe, but George looked a 
little too stern for their taste. 

While writing on the blackboard with his back turned to 
the class, the teacher was invariably struck by a well-aimed 
spitball. 

Mr. Cooper had a wonderful retaliatory weapon to counter 



these sneak attacks. He would spin around, grab an eraser, and 
let fly in the general direction he thought the spitball origi- 
nated. If his missile struck an innocent victim, that was okay 
because he figured (quite correctly) the kid he hit was just 
getting what he deserved from an overlooked past prank. The 
erasers seldom hit anyone as we became expert at "dodging and 
ducking." 

In those days you never told parents you were punished 
at school for very good reasons. Parents always took the 
teacher's side. In fact, if you got a paddling at school and your 
folks found out about it you got another one, much harder with 
a razor strap, at home. 

It seems miraculous that students could concentrate on 
their books. All classes were held in one room. It was the 
recitation room, lecture room, theatre, and study hall. The 
grade that was due to recite came to the desks in front of the 
room and loudly read their assignments. The rest of the 
scholars were supposed to be deaf to this distraction. 

The confiscated and illegal items Mr. Cooper pillaged 
from us were kept in the deep, locked drawers of his desk. There 
were dandy sling shots, knives, rubber guns, whistles, tops, 
baseball cards, pulp magazines, big and little books, comic 
books, and marbles. The academician had a Quaker Oat box full 
of beautiful cat's eyes, crystals, steelies, pee-wees and agates 
that he had taken from us when he caught us playing marbles 
for "keeps." 

A student picked his or her desk at the beginning of the 
school year. This was a first-come, first-served basis. It was 
always a most difficult decision as whether to take one near the 
windows for the comfort of a breeze on a hot day or choose one 
close to the coal stove in the middle of the room to fight off the 
frigid drafts in winter. 

If the word picture painted of the one-room schoolhouse 
seems grim, that is not the case. The pleasurable memories far 
surpass the unpleasant ones. 



We boys were straw-hatted, overall clad, plaid shirted, 
pubescent Vikings who left sacked and ravaged theatres behind 
on Saturday afternoons, raided the old general store, and 
divided our spoils behind the school coal shed. On Halloween we 
soaped windows, "chatted" porches, and turned over outhouses, 
often with angry, screaming victims still inside. We could all 
throw a knife, toss a lasso, climb a tree, swim, fish, hunt, and 
run like the wind. We made our toys from inner tubes, tin cans, 
discarded rubber tires, and assorted junk. 

The girls were smudged-faced tomboys who could hold 
their own in any pick-up football or basketball game. They 
climbed trees and scuffled with the best of the guys and were 
just kind of considered one of the gang until they reached the 
seventh grade. Then they magically changed into dainty ladies 
who played that "stupid" post office game behind the coal shed. 

We all had our very own private fishing, swimming hole, 
and ice skating rink on the same small creek. 

Some hurts seemed tragic and terrible. At twelve, and 
now being one of those snotty, sophisticated eighth graders, I 
caught my best girlfriend (unfaithful Treva) kissing my best 
friend (that creep Charlie) right on the lips behind the school 
yard coal shed. The heartbreak lasted for the eternity of a week. 

The educational facilities, equipment, and qualified 
instructors are far better now than then. The application and 
accessibility of electronic display tjrpe writers, calculators, com- 
puters, and TV have made students more aware and sophisti- 
cated at twelve than we were at twenty. 

The old Montgomery-Ward Hawthorne bike has been 
replaced (by teenagers), like old "Dobbin," with a horse of 
another color, be it called Mustang or Bronco. 

The radio serials and Saturday matinee westerns have 
given over to the sophisticated entertainment of video games 
and VCRs. 

The outdoor playground, as we knew it, is as outdated as 
the outhouse and kerosene lamps. Nowadays kids play on 



modern well-lit playing fields and gyms. Supervised, orga- 
nized, well-equipped, coached, and uniformed teams are now 
the rule rather than the exception even for tiny tot little 
leaguers. 

Albeit every once in a while it does this antiquarian's 
heart good to see youngsters forsake the "fast lane" of organized 
school play and activity and return to plodding down the one 
lane road of yesteryear. I see it in a game of pick-up ball in a 
vacant lot, a chalk-marked hop-scotched game on the sidewalk, 
little girls skipping rope and playingjacks, a kid reading a book 
instead of watching TV . . . and I tip my hat to 'em. 



AS I REMEMBER IT 

Blondelle Lashbrook 

I was delighted to learn in the Fall of '27 that after 
making three attempts at passing the teacher exams, I had 
succeeded. I left word at the county office that if a vacancy 
occurred I would like to fill it. Shortly after Christmas, I 
received a call from the office informing me that there was need 
of a teacher in a rural school just outside of Knoxville, a short 
distance from where I lived. I was on my way at last to my first 
teaching job. How happy that made me feel! 

The teacher had failed to leave any message or to return 
after the Christmas vacation. I was able to board wath the 
clerk's family in a very pleasant home. He had two children in 
the school, a boy and a girl. The school was wathin walking 
distance. 

For one who had never been inside a rural school, I was 
in for many surprises and inconveniences. There were no desk 
copies of any of the books the children used, no library books, 
maps, no playground equipment, and little lighting on dark 



161 



days-so lacking! And then I had to be my own janitor, too! 
Thank goodness, I didn't have to hunt up firewood to start the 
fires as I did in one school. There were cobs. But I was teaching 
and I loved that! 

Then came the first of March and moving time on the 
farm. My family was moving onto a farm four miles away. What 
was I to do? No one would board me. I could stay at the 
schoolhouse. Imagine a nineteen-year-old young woman doing 
that! There just was no choice but to board with my original 
family in their new home. They were kind enough to provide me 
with a work horse— a kind and gentle big animal that I did learn 
to ride. My biggest difficulty was mounting and getting off the 
animal. 

One afternoon in going home from school, it rained, 
sleeted, and snowed before I got back to my boarding place. The 
elements were turned loose that afternoon. 

Because there was poor lighting at this school, the 
children pulled their desks to the windows on dark days for light 
and huddled together close to the stove when the room was cold 
on Monday morning. Floors were very cold. 

I swept the floor each night and kept it clean with a 
sweeping compound. And water was drawn and brought in for 
daily use from an outside well. All students drank from a 
common bucket and used a common dipper. 

There was no playground equipment, but the children 
did have a ball and bat to play with and many common games 
were played. Baseball was enjoyed at the recess time and noon 
hour. 

One morning, I was utterly surprised to find a dead 
mouse in my desk drawer. It really startled me. I was glad it 
was dead. My fifth grade boy who liked to call me by my first 
name confessed he was the guilty one. Now, many years later, 
I saw his name in the paper. It called to mind the incident of so 
many years ago. His young son was receiving a Boy Scout 
Award. I thought it would have been fun to look him up and ask 



him if he remembered that time he had played the "dead mouse" 
prank on me. 

About the time school was out in the spring of the year, 
the sky became overcast and the snow began to fall fast, the 
wind blowing so hard that to have ridden my old work horse to 
my boarding place four miles distant was out of the question. 
One of the families that had several children in the school 
invited me to stay overnight with them. That proved to be a very 
interesting experience to say the least. To see such a big family 
gathered about a supper table and so congenial was thrilling. I 
felt drawn into that family circle too-such a warm friendly 
feeling. I forgot about the elements raging outside. That night 
we all slept in one big room under the eaves. By morning the 
wind had died down. School resumed as usual and everything 
was back to normal. 

My first teaching job paid only $60 a month, but what 
fun I had earning it! 



FALL FLORA AND "FUIST'A 

Elizajane Bate Suttles 

I must have been in the third grade in our one-room 
school. I didn't have this teacher when I was in the first grade, 
and I don't remember too much happening in the second grade, 
but the THIRD GRADE! My brother started to school that 
September and all at once I was "big" sister. I had always been 
large for my age and tried to show everybody I was just as tough 
and daring as any boy in my class. Of all my fond memories, the 
nature hikes are foremost. 

We took one of these hikes in the spring, just when the 
violets and spring beauties were a solid carpet on the hillside 
and the boys could whittle "whistles" out of the soft willows by 



162 



the creek. We made a second trip in the fall when we gathered 
buckeyes, red and yellow sumac branches, and bittersweet 
vines. 

We had a "giant" oak tree growing out by the water- 
pump, where we girls played "house" in the shade under its 
branches and half-sheltered among the exposed roots. We used 
acorn tops for dishes and "pretend" tea-cakes, till the boys got 
tired of their game and came thundering across our "make- 
believe" table, crushing acorns, and spinning everything in all 
directions. 

Our school was on top of a long, steep hill with a creek 
and a bridge at the bottom. It was perfect for sledding on snow, 
but on this special fall day we all grabbed our paper lunch sacks 
and started down the hill, leaving all our cares behind. We 
walked on the left side of the road to meet cars (we hardly ever 
saw any) and chattered excitedly. We started about 11:30 a.m. 
Some of the bigger boys ran ahead and stood on the bridge, 
throwing rocks into the creek, causing big ripples on the water 
till the rest of us got there. 

Just before we got to the bridge, we could either go to the 
left and follow the creek to the willows and wildflowers, our 
favorite hike in the spring, or we could climb the big wooden 
gate and take off to the right where the buckeyes were found. 
That is the way we went on this day. We also followed the creek, 
but the trees were so thick and the hill so high, the ground was 
always "damp and marshy," even when we hadn't had any rain. 
There were also "wash-aways," cutting into the path and you 
had to jump over them. Unfortunately I came down a little early 
in one of the crevices, spattering mud and water all over one 
stocking and shoe. We all hurried along-only too happy to come 
out the other side, into the warm mid-day sunshine. The field 
was so beautiful. The green grass was kept short by grazing 
livestock and here and there golden rod was blooming. Finding 
some large rocks, we immediately took possession of them and 
ate our dinner. There were cows off in the distance and they 



looked over at all of us. Deciding we were not in any danger, 
they went on eating and so did we. 

Finishing our lunch, we walked on across the pasture. 
To the east, a group of CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) boys 
were building the farmer a pond. We all waved and shouted, but 
we kept on walking. Finally, we came to the chestnut grove. It 
was fenced and set-aside by the farmer as a wild-life sanctuary. 
He had graciously given our teacher permission for us to gather 
buckeyes to decorate the school for fall. We all took out our 
paper lunch sacks and collected as many buckeyes as our sacks 
would hold. Some of the nuts were still in the shell so we shelled 
them. The nuts came out a light-blond color but when exposed 
to the air, they started to dry and turn dark. Some of the larger 
boys got out their pocket knives and cut long vines of bittersweet 
berries. They also climbed along the bank "shelf and cut red, 
yellow, and green sumac branches. As I stood and watched, I 
decided right there that I wanted a pocket knife for Christmas. 
After all, I couldn't let the boys get ahead of me. 

It was much slower and harder to talk and carry our 
"treasures" back to school. In fact, climbing the fence with 
barbed-wire strung along the top was almost impossible for us 
girls with our cotton ribbed hose and full-skirted dresses, but we 
made it without too many tears and snags. 

Once we got back to school, we laid out the buckeyes to 
dry on the floor in the basement. Later, the boys hammered a 
nail hole through each buckeye and we girls strung heavy twine 
through the holes and hung them "looped" at the tall windows 
above the blackboards, where they still hung when I graduated 
five years later. We hung the bittersweet wherever we needed 
color, especially over the frame of the blackboards. The heat 
from the room made the berries "pop" open. Some of the boys 
brought back walking-sticks and branches, and the teacher 
showed them how to cut them into lengths and make "twig" 
baskets and flower holders. Some of the mothers sent flower 
cuttings of "Wandering Jew," a vine with beautiful leaves that, 



163 



when exposed to the sun, turned a brilliant red. Soon we had 
"Wandering Jew" rooting in the glass jars of water and growing 
in our "twig" vases everywhere, along with the sumac bouquets 
and buckeye strings, and I thought we had the "prettiest" school 
room in all the world. 



A DAY TO REMEMBER 

Marie Freesmeyer 

The morning of April 19, 1927, donned sunny and warm. 
As I walked the distance from my boarding house to the one- 
room school at Gilead, Illinois, where I was teaching, I antici- 
pated a delightful spring day. Little did I dream of what the day 
actually held in store for the community and for me. 

Nine o'clock came all too soon for both teacher and 
pupils. By recess time, clouds had begun to gather, causing the 
children to become apprehensive about the ball game they were 
planning for the noon intermission. 

After recess, everyone worked on arithmetic assign- 
ments until it became so dark that they could no longer con- 
tinue. I tried to keep their minds off the approaching storm by 
telling them a story. One curious little first-grader insisted that 
he must leave the room. Afterward, I realized the danger of 
allowing him to go by himself. When he opened the door to 
return, the strong, west wind caught the door and slammed 
them both back against the side of the building. If I had looked 
to the northeast, when I stepped out to rescue him, I would have 
been more frightened than the children. If we had had windows 
on the west side of our building, we probably would have been 
under our desks. 

When the wind abated, it began to hail and continued all 
during the time we were eating our lunch. When it finally 



stopped, the children ran out on the playground, but, instead of 
playing ball, they spent the rest of the intermission scooping up 
handfuls of hailstones. The tall grass, the road, and all the 
paths were completely covered by a thick layer of hail, making 
an unusual sight. 

We had just begun our afternoon session with singing, 
when one of the school directors stepped in the door. He 
informed us that a cyclone (the common term for tornado at that 
time) had swept across the county at the noon hour. He told us 
that it had done a lot of damage just a little way north, especially 
in Kintown Hollow. He assured the children that none of their 
homes had been in its path, for he could see the terror in their 
faces. Then he told them to take their belongings and go with 
their teacher to see and learn what a destructive thing a cyclone 
could be. They were dismissed for the day since they would 
probably meet their parents somewhere. 

The students and I had gone less than a mile up the bluff 
road when we began to observe the terrible disaster of the 
storm. As we approached the two-story Dixon home, we could 
see that the south side was completely gone. The wind had 
sliced that house vertically, leaving the north part intact. The 
contents of the remaining portion were plainly visible, even the 
dining table where they had been eating their noon meal when 
they heard the ominous noise which sent them scurrying to 
their cyclone cellar. The hillside across the road was strewn 
with various types of debris: boards, tin roofing, pieces of cloth, 
and tree branches. Most of this litter had blown from areas 
across the river. 

A path of complete obliteration extended through the 
wooded area on both sides of the hill . It looked as if someone had 
cleared a road through the timber. Many other trees were 
damaged and limbs were scattered far and wide. 

When we reached the site of the first homes in Kintown 
Hollow, there were many curious spectators everywhere. Noth- 
ing remained of the smaller home on the north side of the road 



except the floor which was still intact on its foundation. Small 
portions of it were scattered as far as we could see, but most of 
the frame structure had blown completely away. From some of 
the spectators we learned that its owner, Mr. Wilkinson, had 
been killed, and three other occupants had been seriously 
injured. These three, along with others in a state of shock, were 
now being cared for at Mr. Watson's home across the road. 

Although the Watson home had been spared, it had been 
badly damaged and his barn was lying flat on the ground. It 
looked as if a giant foot had smashed it with all its contents, 
including his son's car. 

Soon, all my students had located their parents among 
those who had congregated there to observe the catastrophe and 
to lend any assistance they could. Most people had obligations 
at home and could not stay to help. Since I was free of my 
responsibilities, I entered the Watson home and asked if I could 
be of any assistance. 

The sight and sounds that I encountered are indelibly 
etched in my memory. People were lying on improvised beds, 
several badly injured with less than adequate emergency treat- 
ment. There was a mixture of moaning and groaning, and 
several more in a complete state of shock, not knowing what to 
do. 

My first question, directed at a man who was standing 
helplessly by, was, "Has the doctor been summoned?" There 
was only one doctor for the entire county, but he resided in 
Hardin, which was only a few miles away. I was quite perplexed 
that he wasn't there. 

"Dr. Piesker is detained by those who were injured when 
the cyclone hit the Al Bracksieck home on the Ridge and several 
more in Poorfarm Hollow," the gentleman informed me. It was 
then that I realized that this terrible storm had cut a swath 
across the entire county, taking its toll along the way. 

My offer was readily accepted here in this improvised 
hospital, when I asked if I might assist in some way. I was told 



by Mrs. Watson, who was by now quite recovered from her 
terrible shock and was beginning to get organized, that I might 
go upstairs and see what condition the rooms were in. 

There I found glass and water all over the floor and even 
on the beds. The dormer windows had been shattered; rain and 
hail had blown in. With some help from others, these rooms 
were cleaned of the debris and the beds made ready for occu- 
pancy. But much remained to be done: a meal to be prepared 
for countless numbers; lamps to be made ready; and most of all, 
the needs of several patients to be met. 

The overworked doctor arrived late afternoon. Immedi- 
ately, he began administering to the needs of the several 
patients, and kept two or three of us busy as his assistants. Mrs. 
Wilkinson had a badly lacerated scalp, which, she said, was 
caused by a flying, sharp object hitting her while she was still 
wrapped around a tree where the wind had blown her. This 
wound required many sutures. This tedious task had to be 
performed there on a table by the light of a kerosene lamp. The 
burly county sheriff, Asa Foiles, was pressured into the chore of 
holding the lamp high so as to direct the light exactly right for 
the doctor to perform the operation. To do this, he had to keep 
his eyes steadily on the gruesome wound. I happened to be near 
when he turned and asked for someone to take his place as he 
was getting sick. I took the lamp and held it until the doctor 
finished. It was not a desirable task. 

This was, indeed, a long and eventful day. It is one that 
I shall always remember, and I shall continue to be very 
thankful that my little school at Gilead was not in the path of 
that terrible tornado of 1927. 



165 



THOSE FOLKS AT JOHN DEAN SCHOOL 

Helen C. Harless 

A few months ago, I proceeded to show my four-year-old 
grandson some of the places in Canton that were special to me. 
Our first stop was the former location of the John Dean School. 
Much to my dismay, it had been torn down and replaced with a 
playground. I have been gone from Canton forty-five years, but 
I return each June for a family reunion. How terribly disap- 
pointed I was that the school was gone. I had wanted to show 
my grandson the school and explain to him how special it had 
been to me. 

As the old saying goes, "You can take the girl from the 
town, but you can't take away her memories." Of course, this is 
a paraphrase on "You can take the girl off the farm, but you can't 
take the farm out of the girl." I was a farm girl. I lived on Route 
Nine about three miles west of Canton. When it came time for 
me to go to school, Mom and Dad took me to the John Dean 
School every day. Of course, school busses were unheard of 
then. 

I looked forward to going to school because of Mrs. 
Thixtun, my first grade teacher, and Mr. Cook, the custodian. 
Mrs. Thixtun was a plump, happy person who made me want to 
leam-a great motivator, we would say today. 

Her room was on the south side of the school on the first 
floor. On the east end of the room was the little semicircle of red 
wooden chairs where we went to recite. Here, also, hung from 
easels, were the phonics and reading charts. Just west of the 
chairs were little desks arranged in rows. They were fastened 
to the floor and were adjustable. At the beginning of the year, 
Mr. Cook came to the room and "fitted" the desk to us. He would 
raise or lower the seat so that we could sit comfortably with our 
feet flat on the floor. Mrs. Thixtun's desk sat at the front of the 
room and the old pump organ was nearby. Our cloak room was 
on the north side of the classroom. The students kept caps. 



coats, mittens, boots, and scarves on hooks in this cloakroom. I 
can never remember anyone losing anything. How did we ever 
survive without lockers? 

Our class was divided into the Bluebirds, the Red Birds, 
and the Blackbirds. The Bluebirds were the top students and 
the Blackbirds were the slow students. Naturally, the Red 
Birds fell in between. I was lucky to be a Bluebird until one day 
I did not measure up in reading class. I was demoted to the Red 
Bird group. I was humiliated, crushed, and worried about how 
I was going to tell my parents I had "slipped" academically. The 
truth is, I did not tell them. I "dug in" and worked hard and in 
a few days redeemed my status as a Bluebird and Mom and Dad 
never knew. 

Mrs. Thixtun worked hard to make her students well- 
rounded. Music was a part of our program every day. She had 
a beautiful soprano voice and was generous with her musical 
talent. Our only accompaniment was the pump organ. For 
some reason, Mrs. Thixtun never sat down to play the organ. I 
suppose it was because she could not see us if she sat down or 
we her, so she would stand up, play the organ, and pump with 
her right foot as we sang along with her. 

She also included art and drama in our curriculum. I 
well remember one art project we did. String hammocks were 
made of pastel-colored string. These hammocks were about six 
by eleven inches and were woven on small looms. After we tied 
off and secured each end in a gold metal circlet, Mrs. Thixtun 
hung them end to end around the windows of the room on a wire. 
These were on display so our parents could see them at the next 
PTA meeting. 

As a part of our drama, I can recall being cast as Martha 
Washington with a beautiful full-skirted long dress and a white 
wig. Another time I was one of twelve clowns. Our perfor- 
mances were put on for PTA audiences or became special 
programs open to the community. 

Holidays were always observed regularly in Mrs. 



Thixtun's room. A few days before Valentine's Day, Mrs. 
Thixtun placed a beautifully decorated box on a stool just inside 
the door of our room. We brought our valentines and deposited 
them in the box, and then on Valentine's Day we had our party 
and opened our Valentines. Among my first grade friends was 
Robert Possum, a cute, chubby, blonde boy. About two weeks 
before Valentine's Day, Robert brought a big heart shaped box 
of candy , whispered something to Mrs. Thixtun , and she put the 
box of candy in the bottom drawer of her desk. Every girl in the 
room knew that Valentine was for her, but come the day, I was 
the lucky one. 

The PTA played an important part in the life of our 
school. Meetings were usually held once a month on Friday 
afternoon. The teachers set up folding chairs around the 
perimeter of the room, and the parents would listen to us recite, 
or we would put on the program. The business meeting 
followed. 

I distinctly remember one issue that my mother took 
before the PTA. There were not hot lunches provided. The town 
students went home for lunch, as did the teachers. The country 
students carried sack lunches. During the cold or rainy months, 
the only place we were allowed to eat was in the basement in the 
toilet room. Only a partial partition divided our lunch room and 
the toilets. Believe me, this was not a pleasant surrounding for 
a lunch room. Finally, my mother took the issue to the PTA and 
was told that the reason for making us eat in the toilet room was 
that the teachers did not like the smell of oranges and the 
crumbs of food in their classrooms. Mother stood her ground 
and finally won. We were allowed to eat in the hall between the 
first and second grade rooms. We had to stand up to eat at a big 
table, but even that was a big plus to the toilet room. On nice, 
warm days, we sat on a bench on the playground and ate picnic 
style. 

Eleanor Coleman sat in the seat just ahead of me, and 
periodically- often, that is-she had a severe nose-bleed. We 



would be working in our seats, and all of a sudden Eleanor, 
having a nosebleed, would lean out over the side as a pool of 
blood accumulated on the floor. Mrs. Thixtun, who was always 
understanding, took time to stuff cotton in Eleanor's nose, clean 
up the blood, and assure everyone that all was well. 

Mrs. Thixtun not only taught us our academics well, she 
also gave us culture, showed compassion and patience, yes, and 
even taught us how to be compassionate and patient. I loved her 
very much. 

And then there was Mr. Cook, our custodian, who was a 
very dear person, too. He seemed to like me and helped me in 
many ways. He was always at school over the noon hour, so he 
and I really became pals. If he had chores to do over the noon 
hour, I would tag along and "help" him, but usually we just had 
good things to talk about. Each spring, and this meant all five 
springs I was in school, Mr. Cook made me a kite. The size of the 
kite was determined by how tall I was. As I grew, so did my 
kites. When he got my kite built, we would test it out together 
on the playground over the noon hour. Our kites were a 
harbinger of spring for the neighborhood around John Dean 
School. 

One morning, Mr. Cook was sitting on the iron railing 
that bordered the sidewalk that led to the school. I always 
stopped to chat with him before I went in. This particular 
morning, Mr. Cook asked me, "Did you ever eat groundhog?" 
Naturally, all I could think of was a wild little woodchuck. So 
my answer to Mr. Cook was, "No, of course not." He looked me 
straight in the eye and asked, "Haven't you ever eaten sausage? 
That's ground hog." All the kids around thought this was a neat 
joke, and we all had a good laugh. What a fun way to start a 
school day. This was typical of Mr. Cook who was always full of 
fun. 

Mom and Dad never forgot either Mrs. Thixtun or Mr. 
Cook come butchering day. I always took them a nice big 
package of fresh sausage, which they always appreciated. 



167 



Although the John Dean School is no more, my little 
grandson enjoyed my shared stories centered around beautiful 
memories of this school and those two most unforgettable 
people-Mrs. Thixtun and Mr. Cook. 



FROM MY TEACHER'S PLANNING SCHEDULE, 
1929-1930 

Anna Rittenhouse 

Upon graduation from high school in 1928 I borrowed 
$100 to attend Southern Illinois Normal University for one 
year. Food was carried from home and I did my own cooking in 
the rooming house where I stayed. How proud 1 was in the 
Spring of 1929 to receive a certificate giving me permission to 
teach! 

My first teaching position, Bower School in Kinkaid 
Township, Jackson County, paid $85 per month for an eight- 
month term. To receive my paycheck each month, I was to fill 
out the attendance record sheet and take it to the clerk's home 
a mile from school on a dirt road. Then I walked another mile 
to the place I stayed, paying $20 monthly for room and board. 

Before the first day of school, two of the three directors 
visited to make sure it was clean and in perfect order. School 
opened at 9:00 a.m. on September 2, 1929, with an attendance 
of thirteen more or less interested students ra nging from grades 
one through eight. Textbooks and lessons were assigned and a 
few general instructions given. 

On the second day, the schedule was posted where all 
could see. All reading and penmanship came before recess. 
Classes varied in time from five minutes for reading to fifteen 
minutes for penmanship, yet every child learned to read and 
vmte. From recess until noon arithmetic and spelling was 



taught, varying in time from five to ten minutes. One hour was 
taken at noon for a cold lunch brought from home and outdoor 
exercises and play. At 1:00 p.m. school began with language and 
physiology classes varying from five to fifteen minutes. At 2:30 
p.m. we had another fifteen minute recess, after which geogra- 
phy and history classes were held. Our timekeeper was a seven 
day wind-up clock on the wall for all to see. School dismissed at 
4:00 p.m. 

On the third day of school, two students were given 
permission to walk to the clerk's home to get the victrola, 
basketball, and curtains. The big curtains were hung at the 
front of the schoolroom to make a "stage" from which a program 
would be given at the box supper. The date for this important 
social event and fundraiser was selected carefully. It had to be 
held before bad weather set in and on a night not taken by 
schools nearby. Practice for the program began in September; 
proceeds were used to buy balls, bats, indoor games, etc., as 
needed. Visitors were welcome to drop in anytime and were 
especially enjoyed at intermission in play. 

The first fire was made in the big heating stove on 
September 19, adding to the responsibilities of the teacher who 
was also the janitor who tended the fire and kept floors clean. 

During the year, neatness awards were given weekly. 
Students were divided into two teams. Lions and Tigers; de- 
partment prizes were given. Language work was graded by 
points: one off for each misspelled word, incorrect punctuation 
mark, and inappropriate use of grammar; two off for each 
incorrect capital letter; five off for each mistake in paragraph 
structure; and ten off if work wasn't neat. All grades were 
recorded numerically. What a task it was to add all numbers 
with no calculator or adding machine! On September 30, exams 
were held and grade cards given out a day or two later. 

A race started for the tooth-brushing contest, students 
being divided into two teams. Blue Birds and Red Birds. The big 
tooth-brushing party was October 31. At this time there were 



more new rules: Stay in one minute for each time pupil leaves 
room; failure to make 100 in Spelling requires staying after 
school until missed words are learned; the signal of one finger 
meant asking to be excused, and two fingers indicated anything 
important other than solving problems. 

Plans for nature study for grades seven and eight were 
recorded, including the study of birds, weeds, how wheat be- 
comes bread, etc. Required book reports given were written and 
included ( 1) author and name of book; (2) part of story liked best 
and why; (3) name of principal character liked best and why; 
and (4) did you like this story and why. 

Book salesmen visited country schools during school 
hours. Since our school had no encyclopedias, I bought a set, 
paying $10 monthly. On October 8, County Superintendent 
"Pop" Etherton and a photographer visited our school and took 
our picture. How thrilled we were! For October, the average 
daily attendance was 98.4% Grade cards were handed out 
November 4, following the regular monthly exams. 

A Thanksgiving program was given November 22, which 
included readings, tableaux, and songs. Games were played. 
On November 30, the temperature dropped to zero; on Decem- 
ber 2, several inches of snow fell. On December 3, exams were 
held and grade cards given out several days later. 

On December 19, only six students were present, and 
lessons were all finished before noon. The Christmas Program 
was given on December 23, with ten visitors present. Santa also 
appeared and gave bags of candy, oranges, and nuts, which I 
purchased, to the children. The only Christmas vacation was 
December 25. All pupils were back in school the next day with 
a perfect attendance record. Exams were held December 31, 
with grade cards out soon after. 

On January 10, ice was a half inch thick everywhere; 
three weeks later we had our third snowfall. Exams were held 
January 29, and the next day one girl troublemaker became 
sixteen and dropped out of school. On February 27 exams were 



held, with grade cards soon following. March 31 was another 
exam day. May 1, 1930, was the school year's end. 

My first year at teaching was very special to me. Indeed, 
I found so much pleasure and satisfaction that I remained in 
one-room schools until consolidation finally closed them. 



PERILS OF A COUNTRY SCHOOL TEACHER 

Louise Barclay Van Etten 

A B. Ed. degree was bestowed upon me by Western 
Illinois State Teachers' College in June, 1935, and my first job 
as teacher of the little country school of Oak Grove began that 
fall. 

I was employed at the munificent salary of $50 a month, 
and since I wished to commute from my home in Macomb rather 
than obtain room and board in the neighborhood, it necessitated 
buying a secondhand "Chevy." It had been owned by a local 
auctioneer who had driven it hard and unhampered for 60,000 
country miles, leaving it weary and stubborn. I had nine nice 
kids, and since I was extremely athletic, they loved the extra- 
curricular sessions in the school yard. We even had a few 
lessons outside on especially nice days. Other than that, the fall 
was relatively uneventful. 

That was fall, but in November winter appeared. Almost 
immediately came cold, snow, and icy roads, and I was rudely 
introduced to putting on snow chains and listening to their 
clickety-clanking. Arising from bed in the dark left something 
to be desired. Then the trouble began. Across the road in front 
of the streaming headlights was the continual and ominous 
sweep of drifting snow. One below-zero morning I arrived at the 
crossroads to find the east two-mile trek drifted shut, so I 
parked the car in the barn lot of the farmer who lived at the 



intersection and took off on shanks ponies. I didn't realize it 
then, but this was to be the pattern for the rest of the winter. 

When I got to the school, the fire had gone out in the big, 
old stove, which was my job to stoke. I hurriedly started one 
with cobs and kindling, and it was just beginning to throw offa 
little warmth when one of the directors arrived on horseback. 
Joe Lynn, a former Sunday school mate of mine at Camp Creek 
Church, informed me that there would be no school due to the 
bad weather but that I could ride behind him as far as his corner, 
which was one mile west and so half way to my car. 

I banked the fire, locked up, and then got on the horse 
behind Mr. Lynn. Off we galloped-into the frigid wind of twenty 
some below. After a half a mile without breathing, I told Joe I 
couldn't stand the ride, so I slipped off the horse and waved 
goodbye. Standing in the middle of the road, I discovered, was 
no more condusive to breathing than horseback had been. The 
gale and below-zero temperature were freezing the air in my 
lungs, and snatching the breath right out of me. My lifetime 
passed in front of me. 

Not being ready to die and remembering my three-year- 
old little girl at home, I made a supreme effort and got turned 
around with the wind at my back. The Wes Hayden family lived 
a quarter of a mile west of the school, so, saying a little prayer, 
I started plowing through the heaped snow drifts toward their 
house. I have no idea how long it took, but when I reached the 
front porch, I collapsed, fell down, and hit the front door. Mr. 
Hayden heard the noise and, began opening the door. Finding 
me half frozen, he took me inside and got me into warm blankets 
and gave me some hot soup. 

The day was spent listening to the radio reports of the 
weather across the country and watching the wind carve snow 
sculptures outside the windows. By late afternoon, the wind 
had died down and the sun had come out. Mr. Hayden loaned 
me a horse to ride across to the highway. It was unbelievably 
beautiful with sparks flying off every snow drift and all the trees 



swathed in ghostly garments. I left the horse in the farmer's 
barn, but when I tried to start the car it didn't even growl. 

The road north to Macomb hadn't been cleared so I called 
a garage in Industry, which was south, and a truck came and 
towed me in to the shop. I had friends with whom I spent the 
night, in return for which I threw a few scoops of coal on the fire 
from time to time. 

During the night we heard the fire siren and the next 
morning learned that Ricey Walker, who lived across the road 
from the school, had an over-heated furnace, and his house had 
burned to the ground. The little Industry fire truck had 
valiantly bucked snow drifts for the two miles from the highway 
east to the fire, but the wind had risen to gale velocity again, 
thirty-five below zero-it was hopeless. The Walker family spent 
the remaining night with neighbors, but I'm sure no one was 
able to sleep after such an experience. 

After a night in the warm garage, my grateful car 
started right off, and since the roads had been cleared I didn't 
waste any time making my getaway. 

The extreme cold and snow continued, and we were out 
of school for a week. The following Monday was crisp and clear 
and seemed to have moderated, so I drove to school, whistling 
a tune and glorying in the sparkling diamond day. Ernest Moon 
lived just south of the one mile corner, and I stopped in to 
inquire the temperature and couldn't believe my ears when he 
said twenty below zero. When I arrived at school my nose was 
frozen! 

The weather didn't improve much all winter, and all the 
snow that fell stayed until one sunny day about February 20 the 
temperature suddenly soared to seventy degrees and all the 
snow melted in one day. I realized what that was going to do to 
the streams, and, as there was a small creek to cross west of the 
school, I dismissed school an hour early and hastily left. 

When I got to the bridge, water was running over it, and 
I knew it was then or never. I started across, and killed my 



170 



engine about midway. In those days the car starter was on the 
floor, and, stamping on it with a heavy foot, I pulled the car on 
across and was on my way, thanking God for my resourceful- 
ness and my jalopy for its cooperation. I later learned that about 
two hours after I had crossed, a family's vehicle was swept off 
into the swollen stream. Fortunately, they managed to get out, 
frightened but safe. 

Thus ended winter, and an early spring helped us to 
forget the bad weather. There were woods back of the school and 
spring flowers beckoned, so the children and I spent many noon 
hours exploring. 

Then came the big fun day-the last day of school. 
Everyone brought special dishes, and we had a lovely picnic 
lunch outside. The mothers were guests. I brought my little girl 
as well as a special friend. We played games, did many fun 
things, and laughed a lot. I hope those "children," now grand- 
parents, remember that day with fond memories. 



EXPERIENCES OF A RURAL TEACHER 

Mary K. DeWitt 

At the beginning of the Thirties, my family had barely, 
but painfully, survived the Depression of 1929 and 1930. I had 
completed a year of elementary training at Western Illinois 
Teachers College and was in dire need of a teaching position. At 
that time, a teacher's limited certificate could be completed with 
just one year of college training and by successfully passing a 
written test at the superintendent's office. 

With many misgivings, I attempted to locate a teaching 
position, only to learn that there was only one school available- 
in the northeast part of Schuyler County-and the only way to 
reach it was either by walking, by horseback, or by driving on 



a very bad dirt road for a much longer distance. Nonetheless, 
I decided to take the position. 

I had to drive my car the first seven miles out of 
Rushville to a farm home where a very kind gentleman, Mr. Asa 
Bartless, rented a gentle white mare for me to ride the rest of the 
way-a distance of about one mile through some beautiful 
woods-also I crossed a stream. 

The new job was quite a challenge. I was young and had 
learned that 1 was a descendant of the explorer and famous 
historical pathfinder, Daniel Boone. As I rode on my horse, I 
imagined 1 was on the Wilderness Road in Kentucky and 
watched for the many things which nature had to offer. Espe- 
cially were the spring and winter beautiful times. Also, the trip 
gave me time to be alone and to plan my lessons for the next day. 

There were many very difficult times, also. Two snow- 
storms that winter gave me a hard time. During one of the 
storms, 1 was returning home in the evening and the snow was 
so deep in the road that my horse could go no farther. My feet 
were even touching the drifts while in the saddle stirrups. The 
horse stopped! I rolled off before she began plunging in the 
snow. Thankfully, a neighbor who saw me came to my rescue. 

During another snowstorm, I had tried to go without any 
chains on my car. But 1 got stuck on a hill before I got to the place 
where my horse was kept. I finally succeeded in putting on the 
chains and continued on to school. My students were waiting for 
me to let them in out of the weather. That was one of the reasons 
I always felt it necessary to be at the schoolhouse on time. 

Still later in the spring, my horse Goldie refused to go on 
the riding path, stopping very quickly and snorting in terror. I 
finally spotted a large black snake crawling ahead across the 
path. When it disappeared, she calmed, and we continued on 
our way. 

The only outside activity we could have at school was a 
meeting of the mothers during the daytime, honoring them 
especially for Mothers Day. Our Christmas was a very simple 



171 



observance when we exchanged gifts and enjoyed the beautiful 
Christmas tree which we had obtained from the woods nearby. 
We had no electricity, so everything was very common and had 
to be held during the daylight time. VVe had very good atten- 
dance during the year. There was a very close relationship 
among the five families represented, and we all learned to be 
very concerned about each family. 

In the spring when Mr. Bartlett needed his mare for field 
work, I used a little Western riding mare Dolly which my uncle 
from Kansas had shipped to Illinois for pasture. As she was 
used to the cowboys and could do tricks, I enjoyed her little 
antics and finished my year in Western style. She entertained 
my students with her little tricks and became a spoiled pet to 
them all. 

It took lots of faith, courage, determination, and many 
frustrations to complete my year's teaching. But I often remem- 
bered my ancestor's hardships, too, and it helped my year to 
pass very quickly and pleasantly. If there had been accidents 
or sicknesses in such a very remote place, it would have been a 
disaster. As it happened, though, we were very fortunate and 
these were some of my favorite experiences in preparing for a 
long career of teaching, which finally ended after thirty-eight 
years. 



THE OLD ONE-ROOM COUNTRY SCHOOL 

Fern Moate Hancock 

Still sits the school house by the road, 

A ragged beggar, sunning. 

Its door's worn sill betraying 

The feet which, creeping came to school. 

Went storming out for playing. 



The Ordinance of 1787 had, as one of its most important 
provisions, one that stated, "Education shall be forever encour- 
aged" in the states that would be formed from the "Northwest 
Territory." 

One of the methods used to implement this provision 
was to establish schools at regular intervals that could be 
reached by walking. Consequently, as the land was surveyed 
and parallels and meridians were mapped, parcels of land could 
be described. Our township was twenty-six degrees north and 
three degrees east of the Third Principal Meridan. As roads 
were constructed, a grid, like a waffle iron, emerged. Little 
wooden one-room schools were built two miles from each other 
north and south and east and west. No child was ever more than 
two miles from a school. Standards for teaching were very low. 
People with only an eighth grade education might be hired. But 
in my time, I took an examination for a second grade certificate 
after graduating from high school. I was eighteen years old. 

Until I entered my first rural school, my knowledge of a 
rural school was slight. Schools often served as churches. So 
the first time I was in a rural school was to attend the confirma- 
tion of the daughter of one of my fa the 's patients. Othertimes 
were the school picnics on the first day of school, possibly the 
Saturday following for I would have been in school otherwise. 
The term for a country school was eight months. Our school was 
in a small town, but it was at the intersection where a country 
school should have been, so we had pupils from the farms, with 
their rosy cheeks and chapped hands, in our classes. Some had 
walked the railroad tracks to school. At this same time, a 
teacher who taught two miles east of Gridley walked the track 
to her school. Prairie Valley was its name. Our term was nine 
months long. When my father taught, school was discontinued 
at corn husking or corn planting times so the children could 
help. 

I passed the examination, had six weeks of summer 
school, and was qualified to teach. The subjects I studied were 



172 



Country School Teaching and Primary Methods. I passed 
Professor Gavin's (he wrote an orthography text) spelling test. 

I had applied for a position at Maple Grove, northeast of 
Garlock. I was granted an interview with the three members of 
the school board. A $90 salary per month to conduct an eight- 
month term was agreed upon. We shook hands on the agree- 
ment. I was asked to attend church at least two Sundays each 
month, to which I readily agreed. (My son-in-law, who is a 
professor at Western Illinois University with a doctorate, al- 
ways says when I tell that, "Your civil rights were infringed.") 
I didn't feel that way then, and I don't now. I felt the board was 
interested in a good Christian example for its children. 

I secured a room with a family-this included the room, 
board (food), and laundry. 

Then I entered my first rural school. A porch preceded 
an anteroom where coats and over shoes could be left. Shelves 
for the lunch pails were also there. My school had a basement, 
a coal and cob bin, and a furnace. In winter, I built up the fire 
and banked it at night. 

There were two doors in this hall by which to enter the 
schoolroom. Long windows were on either side of the room. A 
slightly raised platform in the front of the room held the 
teacher's desk and chair, and book shelves for textbooks and 
such library books as we had. Encyclopedias and a big dictio- 
nary completed the equipment. On the wall behind the desk 
was the blackboard. A metal cupboard filled one corner and 
held consumable supplies, theme paper, manila paper, colored 
paper for art work, chalk, scissors, and erasers. 

There was no water on our grounds so one of the student 
chores was to go across a meadow and up a slight rise to a 
farmer's well. In my mind's eye, I can see those little legs 
scampering up that hill. A common dipper served us very well, 
although collapsible metal cups were coming into use. On the 
wall opposite the teacher's desk was a two burner kerosene 
stove which I found was to be used for a hot lunch program in 



winter. We also had a piano and an assortment of song books. 
A picture of George Washington was prominently displayed and 
an American flag. 

I assembled the textbooks I would use for the ensuing 
year, prepared a schedule of classes, and, in fear and trembling, 
awaited the first day of school. Mothers, possibly some fathers, 
too, had given the school a good cleaning. 1 had a bouquet of 
goldenrods on the desk. 

We were quite modern then and taught alternate grades- 
one year 1-3-5-7, the next year 2-4-6-8. But it was not a 
perfect arrangement by any means, for if you had a person just 
starting school, how could you possibly put him in the second 
grade? 

We began the day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance first 
and had ten minutes of singing. I chose the songs the first day. 
Later, we had little committees put the numbers on the board. 

The first day I had to have each child write his name, 
age, parents' names, his grade, etc., to enter in my register. 
They had chosen their seats, and this first day I saw no reason 
to change them. So we got organized and went through the 
schedule so lessons could be assigned. Time sped past and here 
was recess. 

A school bell brought them back, and school continued 
until noon. We enjoyed our lunch together outdoors. Then we 
played a game of baseball. I was umpire, but I didn't stand 
behind the catcher. I stood next to the pitcher because I felt it 
was safer. 

After the noon break, when drinks had been taken and 
hot faces and dirty hands washed, I had decided to read fifteen 
minutes for rest and relaxation; I read on through the day. We 
had an afternoon recess and after a while school was out. I had 
made up my mind always to say goodnight to each one and good 
morning, too. 

One of the customs of those days was to have the teacher 
home to stay all night. So I walked home with the children, had 



a delicious supper, was treated royally, slept in the "spare" 
bedroom, and had a hearty breakfast. The mother packed my 
lunch pail, and the children and I walked back to school. I made 
some lasting friendships through that by-gone custom. 

The school term went swiftly. We chose monitors for the 
following week to do various duties, such as choose the daily 
songs, keep the black boards erased, be the water carrier, etc. 
On Friday afternoons, in the winter, the last item was to choose 
the menu for the next week's hot lunch. Imagine me, who had 
only helped cook for four, deciding how much milk, cocoa, and 
sugar to use for hot cocoa or for the creamed dried beef they liked 
or how much hot rice and sugar, cinnamon, and milk should be 
used. Various families would offer to bring these foods. After 
recess, imagine me teaching a class with my book in one hand 
and stirring the rice with another. Sometimes each pupil 
brought ajar of vegetable soup or chili which would be stirred 
together in a big kettle, then rationed out at noon. We sat at our 
seats to eat, told riddles, had Morris sing for us, or, if time 
permitted, played an indoor game. The children took their 
bowls or cups home to wash, but we had chosen a dishwashing 
monitor so everybody had his her turn at washing the pots and 
pans. Water had been put on to heat before we ate. 

The last day of the school program was the picnic. The 
children came in the morning and played ball, ran races, and 
played other games. The parents came at noon with well-filled 



baskets. After the visiting, while the women packed food and 
dirty dishes away, the older men played ball against the 
younger ones. 

About two o'clock they gathered in a circle and our little 
program began. One of my little girls had come up to me and 
said her father had some things he wanted to say. At the proper 
time, he rose with a paper in his hands and started to read a 
poem about school days. Pretty soon I pricked up my ears. I 
realized his poem was about our little Maple Grove School. 
Then came the last lines which recalled my wading through a 
stream in September. 

It closed with this couplet: 

"If the directors were kind 

They'd buy a boat 

For their teacher. Miss Fern Moate." 

The pupils and their parents were hilarious. I don't 
know to this day how I felt. I do know this: I had made the grade. 
I was one of them. They were pleased with me. 

I can't praise the one-room rural school too highly. The 
children learned, often from one another's recitations. We had 
no problems with drugs, cigarettes, or "dirty" books. The years 
I taught in the one-room school were some of the most reward- 
ing of my thirty-four years of teaching. 




IX 

l^etters of 
L^ong cAgo 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

Those involved in the areas of history, Hterature, sociol- 
ogy, anthropology, and philosophy affirm the significance of 
letters. Indeed, they are crucial to a culture and a society. 
Unfortunately, the telephone, the rapid pace of life today, the 
time-consuming glitter of the mass media-particularly televi- 
sion-and the myriad of spectator events that capture the minds 
of so many have conspired to relegate letter writing to a minor 
position in our society. And this is a shame. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay told her generation to "search 
the fading letters, finding steadfast in the broken binding all 
that once was I." 

And it was Goethe who insisted, "We lay aside letters 
never to read them again, and at last we destroy them . . . and 
so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of 
life, irrecoverably for ourselves and others." 

The marvelous memoirs included in this chapter lend 
authenticity to the poetic claims. The charm, information, 
knowledge, love, and sweet morality are really quite special and 
demonstrate aptly the enormous worth and relevance of letter 
writing. 

Important, enlightening historic information is offered 
in three of the memoirs. Jean Lynn's moving selection tells of 
her great aunt's 1865 letter in which she graphically describes 
her experience in seeing the train bringing the slain President 
Abraham Lincoln's body from Washington, DC to Springfield, 
and she speaks in defense of General Sherman. Esmarelda 
Thompson, speaking about the Civil War, includes a letter from 
her Uncle John. Another of America's important historic 
periods is featured in Owen Hannant's letter written by his 
great grandfather who was a part of the Gold Rush of 1849. The 
abject difficulty attendant to the trek and the hopes, dreams, 
and disappointments of the gold seekers are explicated. 

Stella Hutchins includes a letter in which she speaks of 



love for mother and father and of her desire to teach school. 
Even more interesting is the step-by-step process of making 
maple syrup, a project initiated to secure monies to finance 
schooling. Helen Keithly's 1908 letter to her grandmother 
focuses on a child's adoration for the woman and on the lass's 
view of life and school over eighty years ago. In an 1839 letter 
from David Prince to his sister, submitted by Helen Shelton, the 
writer lectures his sister about her tastes and demeanor. 
Though there was affection in the communication, it aptly 
displays the elitism of university education in the era — if, 
indeed, young Mr. Prince, not a humble man, reflects his 
schooling. 

The other memoirs speak, in one way or another, about 
love. Signa Lorimer includes a splendid letter to her grand- 
daughter filled with deep affection and wonderful advice. Louise 
Efnor shares a touching letter concerning a young husband's 
loving Christian view of the untimely death of his wife and of his 
deep affection for his children. Love letters were included in the 
memoirs of Max Rowe, discussing communications received by 
his mother, and Katherine Cravens submits an affectionate 
letter received from a serviceman during World War II. 

It was Donald Mitchell who asserted, "Blessed be let- 
ters-they are our monitors, they are our comforters, and they 
are our heart-talkers." 

If the memoirs in this chapter are an indication of the 
accuracy of his statement, he is most surely correct. From a 
bygone time, these letters instruct, charm, and please. 

Alfred J. Lindsey 



ABE LINCOLN'S BODY COMES HOME 

Jean Geddes Lynn 

Laura Geddes, my great aunt, was born March 23, 1844, 
near Fountain Green, Illinois-the daughter of Colonel Thomas 
and Susan Rebecca Geddes, early settlers in Hancock County. 
She married George Brandon, raised a family, and lived most of 
her life in the Fountain Green area. Laura was a student at 
Illinois State Normal University at the time she wrote this 
letter describing the passage of Lincoln's funeral train through 
Normal on its way to Springfield. The letter was addressed to 
her mother (my great grandmother). Thanks to the foresight of 
my father, Allen Geddes, the letter was saved. Our family is 
happy to be able to share this treasure with others who may be 
interested. 

My dear Mother, 

I wrote to Julia the latter part of last week and I thought 
I would answer yours during this week, but I have had so much 
writing "to Mr. Edwards" (as the girls call the essays on Theory 
and Art of Teaching) to do lately, I put if off. 

This has been a week long to be remembered at Normal . 
On Wednesday morning the funeral train bearing the remains 
of our lamented President passed through our little village on 
the way to its final resting place. The station house was draped 
in mourning and there were several appropriate mottoes. They 
raised an arch over the track. It was all wreathed with cedar 
and white plumb blossoms and across it was the motto "Go to 
thy rest." The lady students got up a wreath of the most 
beautiful flowers I ever saw to be placed on the coffin. On a card 
was written "Here is a man whose like we shall never see again" 
on one side; on the other "We bring flowers because we loved 
him, Normal Students." This card was fastened on with the 
richest bow of white ribbon and crape. Wednesday morning the 
teachers had engaged several boys to go round with a bell to 



wake the students at three o'clock. They took a vote the night 
before to see how many could get up without having to be called 
and as there were only three or four, they said we must not set 
up all night for fear of sleeping too late in the morning and they 
would see we were wakened in time. 

The train was to come at four and by that time all 
Normal and the neighborhood round were there waiting. It was 
nearly five when the Engine came; it is always ten minutes 
ahead. It had a life size picture of the President in front and was 
draped in mourning. Then the train soon hove in sight. It 
stopped at where the roads cross and the wreath was put on. It 
passed the station very slowly but did not stop. There was eight 
or ten cars all covered with black and white, little flags on each 
car with black and white streamers, a large picture of the 
President on the engine in front like the first engine. The car the 
coffin was on was almost black and covered with black and 
white. Mr. Edwards said it was built in Virginia and presented 
to the President only a few days before he died for to come to the 
fair in Chicago in. It was all iron. There was soldiers standing 
guard at each car door both before aiiu behind. The front cars 
was filled with distinguished men, nrt a woman on the train. 
His son did not pass till evening. The head of each man was 
uncovered till the last car passed under the arch. All stood 
silently watching till the cars wound slowly round the hill out 
of sight. "Go to thy rest." 

Mother, have you read Henry Ward Beecher's funeral 
sermon on the death of the President. It is splendid, all of it, but 
the last part is in the most beautiful language I ever read. I 
would copy the last few sentences here by Libbie has lent the 
paper and I do not remember the connection. Libbie's brother 
Will keeps us provided with all the reading matter we have time 
to do justice, The New York Herald, Dailies, Harper's Weekly, 
Adantic Monthly, and Our Young Folks. 

I hear a great many rumors calculated to tarnish the 
fame of one of our best Generals. I do not believe a word of it. 



I often wish I could get the Chicago Journal and see what it says 
of General Sherman. I have not received a letter from either 
Rob or Cy this week. I can hardly wait till I get Cy's letter, he 
is going to send his photo. Kate and I were going up yesterday 
to get ours. It rained all forenoon and we did not have time in 
the afternoon. I am afraid you will get out of patience reading 
my excuses, so I am not going to say "photo" again till I send it. 

O! Mother I have read Uncle Tom's Cabin since I wrote 
you last. I liked it so much. If I had read it before the war broke 
out I don't know but I might have turned out like John Brown. 

I have been up to S. School and Church. The minister 
gave us a red hot abolition sermon. Just gave the greatest 
cursing I ever heard to old Bucky, the rebellion, and sympathiz- 
ers. I would like to hear Mr. Walker preach again. We have a 
minister here every day and some of them are rather right. Love 
to all. I hope you will write soon. 

L.A.Geddes 



A LEGACY FROM UNCLE JOHN 

Esmarelda T. Thomson 

My first exposure to American history outside my 
mother's family group was with a fourth grade class in a 
Galesburg elementary school. Our pretty young teacher asked 
us if we knew anything about the Civil War. I felt proud to put 
up my hand, and when Miss McCabe gave me the nod, I 
reported, "My grandfather was in this war." The teacher asked, 
"Which side was he on?" And I replied, "My mother's side." And 
so a family joke was bom and I later discovered my father's 
family supplied me with two great-grandfathers who served in 
the same conflict. 

My Uncle John gave me the key to his personal desk one 



afternoon as we visited together. The year was 1943. I felt a 
sense of urgency in his words when he asked me "to look after 
it." I agreed and we spoke of other things. Three evenings later, 
he died in his chair with his books near at hand and his glasses 
in place. It was a bleak and sad time but perhaps a fitting way 
to leave for this man who had filled his mind with a world of 
books and family devotion. I kept the key and "looked after" the 
desk during the unsettled years of World War II. I felt the 
solemnity of my uncle's request but never more deeply as when 
a packet from the desk was opened several years later to reveal 
a very special letter, written by my "mother's side" grandfather, 
John H. Hunter, 1st Lt., 31st Regiment, Illinois Vol. Infantry. 
World War II was over by this date and my husband, our little 
Tom, and I were settlinginto our first post-war home. Thoughts 
of my uncle and his long protection of this letter, together with 
his tremendous admiration and respect for his Civil War father, 
flooded my mind. I became the protector of a legacy from my 
Uncle John. The letter has been displayed at several historical 
celebrations. On my sister's sixty-fifth birthday, I had it copied 
for her. Together, we placed a copy of it in our brother's 
seventieth Birthday Celebration Book. With this memoir, I give 
parts of it to my readers and believe my uncle would be glad. 
Surely my Civil War grandfather would want to add the truth 
of his writing to some historical record! 

The yellowed pages are fragile as I look at them now, but 
the black ink holds strong even though the old letter is 124 years 
old. The writing style is Spencerian with decorative, right 
slanted, rounded letters; it must have been made with a broad 
nibbled pen and good, black ink. Flourishes are in continuous 
evidence, particularly in the crossing of t's and in the beautiful 
signature. I can only marvel at the pages and the conditions 
under which the letter was penned-perhaps in daylight or in a 
lantern lit tent? My grandfather was an adjutant and assisted 
with orders and records. 

The letter is dated January 16, 1865, with the location 



181 



of Poctaligo, South Carolina. On a current atlas map it is 
southwest of Charleston close to a river. It is important to 
remember that the fall of Atlanta opened the way for "Sherman's 
March to the Sea," which my grandfather had experienced with 
the Union army according to his writing. 

He addressed the letter to "Mess. Mershon, Dilworth 
and Co." with the simple salutation of "Gents." These men were 
business associates of my grandfather in Vermont, Illinois, 
where he lived before going to war as a substitute for Lemuel 
Lindsay of Ipava. Let us give attention to some of his words: 
"On the evening of the 13th we broke camp near Beaufort and 
took the road for Charlestown. On the next morning, we crossed 
the Poctaligo River and began to find plenty of the Johney's in 
front of us, our regiment was in front of the entire army. The 
31st went ahead to feel of them. ... By two o'clock in the 
afternoon, we had them on the skedadle. (I say we, well, I was 
not in the mix for the day before we left Beaufort, the regiment 
received via New York one hundred and ten drafted men and 
substitutes and the Colonel placed them under the command 
and supervision of the undersigned. ) Of course, I regretted very 
much that I could have no part in the glory of making the 
chivalry take the double quick. . . . Early yesterday morning we 
came in and took possession (I say we now for Hunter and his 
brave hundred and ten came in with their regiment with a loss 
of only two men, and they came in this morning safe, they had 
been looking after chickens, honey, etc.) of Pocotaligo Station. 
It is not much of a town, only a station on the Charlestown and 
Savanah R.R — From the looks of the camps and camp grounds 
around here, there must have been a big lot of Johnies here. The 
17th A.C. is here now, the 15th will be soon and the 14th will 
come up from Savanah and then the Grand Armee will move on 
and take the last ditch. Please examine a map and you can tell 
better where we are than I can, for I have no map. I wash you 
would tell H.S. Thomas that I would feel much obliged if he 
would send me one of those maps that he has in the Post Office." 



Some of the words used in this letter intrigue me and 
make me wish I could have known my grandfather, who died 
when my mother was a child of nine. I like his word "skedadle" 
and think of it as a mild term for a retreating army! He makes 
reference to "The Rebs" in the early part of the letter but most 
often speaks of the "Johneys." The reader might like to know 
that John H. Hunter was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, a 
border state. His father came from Richmond, Virginia, and 
immigrated to Illinois, a free state, when my grandfather was 
about ten years old. His mother was Lucinda Nash from 
Tennessee. 

When I read his wish for a map and the message for his 
Postmaster to send one, I marvel at his ability to sort out the 
location of his regiment's encampment and the lucid picture he 
creates as to the gathering of the Union forces for the push on 
"to take the last ditch" at Charleston, spelled "Charlestown" in 
the letter. 

In the closing page of the writing. Grandfather re- 
quested his friends to show the letter to his family and "tell them 
that I stood the late fight first rate." He also wrote, "Provisions 
are again short but hope to have plenty soon. . . . Several large 
plantations inside our pickett lines. They were all cleaned out 
yesterday besides some others that were outside the pickett 
lines. Today, there are orders against letting any of the boys 
outside the lines and so they will be safe until we move or the 
lines are moved farther out." In this portion of the letter, we are 
brought into the warfare of Sherman's "March to the Sea," 
which included an army traveling light and "living on the 
country," according to Stephen B. Oates in Portrait of America. 
Foraging was a reality and I ponder over the terrors of it. 

He also urged his friends to write to him with the 
sentence, "What in the world is the reason you do not write to 
me. Calladay gets letters but there is none for me." Word from 
home is strength for the soldier and he made the universal plea, 
"write to me." 



182 



The letter holds two postscripts, one concerning the 
weather which says, The weather is pleasant during the day 
but quite cool at night. We hope to take Charlestown by 
February 1st and then, think we will come home. Get ready for 
us for, if alive, we are sure to come." This last statement holds 
such poignancy; it clutches my heart. The penmanship is 
smaller and with no flourishes. However, the final sentence 
brings some relief vwth a humorous comment on Jefferson 
Davis. It reads, "Notice what this paper, the Charlestown 
Mercury, says of Jeff Davis. They do say that although a very 
devout man that he uses a great many whiskey stews." 

The first "P.S." said, "I understand that William Mellor 
got home. I am glad to hear it. I took New Year's dinner with 
his regiment in Savannah. Give him my best wishes." This 
identifies his presence in the Savannah campaign where Union 
communications were opened up by sea. Sherman wintered for 
a month there before making the drive northward through the 
Carolinas to which the main quotes of this letter refer. 

This is a letter with glimpses of a Union infantryman in 
the Civil War. He began as Sergeant Hunter and gained a field 
promotion to First Lieutenant within his first eight months of 
duty. With his officer rank he served another year. His Civil 
War sword stood by the mantle in the parlor of the Hunter home 
in Table Grove in company with the more ornate one of his 
Knights Templars of the Masonic Lodge. These items made life 
more enjoyable as I was growing up in my Grandmother's home. 
Each was a point of reference with my dead Grandfather. 
Grandmother always called him "Papa." Uncle John called him 
"Pa." 

How my uncle gained this letter I can only conjecture. 
Perhaps the friends from Vermont saved it for my Grandfather's 
return, or, as I believe, sent it to my uncle after his father's death 
in 1907. The letter was treasured by my Uncle John, a self- read 
student of history. His signature was similar to his father's, 
though without the bold flourishes. The generational stream 
holds me in awe; and I feel blessed by family and country. 



LETTER OF A FORTY-NINER 

Owen Hannant 

This letter was written by my great grandfather, James 
M. Daigh, upon arriving in California after making the long 
overland trip from the States in the gold rush of 1849. Born in 
Virginia in 1800, he moved to Illinois while a young man. 
Caught up in the gold fever, he made the trip when he was forty- 
nine years old. He panned for a time, hauled supplies to the 
miners for a while, and then set up a store where he did quite 
well for a few years until he was murdered in 1855. He is buried 
at Shasta City. 

Dear Friend Whitaker, 

We arrived at the first gold diggings today. As you know 
I took the river boat "Connecticut" from Naples to St. Louis. 
Next day at St. Louis I boarded the "Embassy" for St. Joseph. 
Our first death occurred on this boat. A young man named 
Thomas Washington died of cholera on April 12th. His com- 
rades buried him on top of a high bluff about five miles below 
Jefferson City. This death cast a solemn gloom over every man 
on board and bibles blossomed out in great profusion. But as no 
new cases developed the men soon returned to their gambling, 
fighting, and drinking. 

Our teams arrived at St. Joseph and we began our 
overland trek. The trip proved hard and tiresome. Many died 
along the way. At times the road seemed endless. It seems that 
Providence has, on these vast plains, provided the Indian with 
a retreat where he may remain, unmolested, for many years to 
come. 

Sometimes there were as many as 300 wagons in sight 
at one time. The teams ahead often ate the grass down so close 
that there was little left for those that followed. I have seen 
hundreds of oxen dead along the trail. The superiority of the 
older animals was fairly tested and proven. Most of the animals 
that died were young. While crossing the desert several of our 



young animals failed so as to be of little service, one died. We 
had to leave one wagon here before coming to the Humboldt or 
Marts River and Carson River about 200 miles from the nearest 
gold diggings. Many of the emigrants are disheartened and 
many are sick. 

While I did not expect as much as perhaps some others 
but I did expect to make from three to ten thousand dollars. I 
expect it yet, Friend Whitaker. I never could believe I was 
doomed to kneel down to the wealth or dictation of any man. I 
am fully convinced of that yet. If I keep my health I will soon 
make a handsome sum of money. I always detested the idea of 
making money by low, pitiful, sneaking advantages. I still 
detest it but all I can make by honest labor I will make and I 
believe I am now where a steady lick will win. Therefore my 
motto is "Death or Victory." If the latter be my fortune I expect 
to return to Pike County where I shall spend the balance of my 
days in peace and quietness with my family and friends which 
seems to be the most desirable thing to me in this world. If the 
former then my bones and flesh will mingle with the dust of 
California. 

We have all been sick more or less. James and Arthur 
Chenoweth were sick when I left them but both were considered 
on the mend. William Chenoweth died July 26th and was 
buried 30 miles this side of Fort Hall. Roland Griswold died 
August 18 and was buried on Carson River about 200 miles from 
the Gold mines. John Aiken died September 8 at three o'clock 
about 10 miles from our camp and forty miles from this city. Old 
David Porter died on the route somewhere on the Platte is all 
that have died from Pike. I know that all of the Chambersburg 
boys are well. 

I wish you to furnish my family and don't let them suffer 
till I can make a remittance which will not be long. I will write 
soon again. Write me as soon as you get this and direct it to 
Sacremento City, California. 

Yours Truly-James Daigh 



A LETTER ON MAKING MAPLE SYRUP 

Stella Howard Hatchings 

This is a letter I sent to my sister concerning the making 
of maple syrup. 

Dear Sister Gladys, 

Thank you for getting me an invitation to visit with you 
in the Stickleman home there in Blue Mound, as you work for 
your room and board while getting your last year of high school. 

Luckily for us, you are in Macon, and adjoining Chris- 
tian County. A job teaching a country school in either county 
will be fine. Are you keeping your ears open for schools where 
a change of teachers is likely? 

I don't regret that I resigned my school and came home 
for this past winter, but now that Mother is so much better, I'm 
eager to get back to teaching, and preferably near Blue Mound. 

I have some good news. As I wrote a month ago, my bank 
account is depleted. I've worried about money for my train fare, 
and the cost of getting around to apply for a teaching job. I 
needed to earn some money before going to seek a position-but 
how? 

I remembered that when we were small children and 
lived in the wooded part of the Jim Lovelace farm half-way 
between Patterson and Glasgow, Dad tapped some maple trees 
and made syrup. That memory is dim but a few years later a 
neighbor. Fairy Martin, and her friend had a "sugar camp" near 
our house. They worked there every day and made syrup and 
candy. We don't live there now, but there are maple trees 
growing on Dad's place here on the line between Scott and 
Greene counties. 

Then I remembered that Dad used to tell us about how 
he had helped his grandfather Wells make maple syrup. 

When I told about my plan. Dad said he remembered 
how it was done, but it involved too much work and he didn't 



have time to help me. I couldn't forget the idea. After more 
talking, Dad called it "pestering," he agreed to tell me how to go 
about it. 

First, I should make spiles to fit into holes drilled in the 
tree trunk. Sumac saplings were good for these. Many were 
growing along the road. In one afternoon I had a pile of Sumac 
sticks about one foot long. The diameter was about 1 1/2 inches. 
I sawed halfway through each stick about three inches from one 
end. With a pocket knife I whittled away the bark from the short 
end. It wasn't difficult to pry off the top part of the long end. 

The next step was to burn away the soft pith that was in 
the center. I did that at the house with a tool made by forcing 
a corn cob on the end of a steel rod with a very small diameter. 
You remember the heating stove in our living room has a big 
door with a little iron platform out in front. With the iron poker 
I raked a heap of live coals near the door, then opened the door 
a crack and rushed the rod into the coals. It was soon red-hot. 
So was my hand, even though I had on a double glove. It was 
easy to push that hot tool through the pith. While the tool was 
heating again, I scraped out the pith and there was a little 
trough. 

Dad said the spiles were alright, and he offered to haul 
the big iron kettle down to the maple grove. We loaded 
everything into the wagon. We took an axe, spade, shovel, the 
brace and bit, all the gallon buckets, and crocks that Mother 
could spare, and my spiles. Mother gave me some strips of old 
sheets to wrap around the round end of the spiles to fit them 
tightly into the tree. 

Dad dug a pit which he called a furnace. On either side 
of it he set a heavy post with a vee shaped top. The big kettle 
was swung on a pole over the pit. The ends of the pole rested 
firmly in the vee notches. At the back of the kettle was a long 
length of stove pipe which was wired securely. 

From the branch we carried fiat rocks and banked them 
against the furnace and up around the kettle. Dad had done all 



the hard work. I couldn't have done it alone. 

"Now," Dad said, "I'll tap one tree. This is a big tree and 
I'll drill two holes. Smaller trees will only need one." 

I watched as Dad fitted the inch bit into the brace and 
soon had a hole about two inches deep. When he pulled out the 
bit and scraped out the wet shavings sap ran out and down the 
tree trunk. I wrapped a strip of white cloth around the bare 
wood end of a spile and handed it to Dad. Gently he tapped it 
into the hole. You should have seen how the sap raced down the 
little trough into the bucket I placed under the end of it. 

"The camp's set up in the maple grove. The place is full 
of dead trees and fallen limbs for fuel, and you're on your own," 
Dad said as we started home. 

I worked all the next day tapping trees. I even tapped 
one from which no sap came. Icouldn'tthinkwhy. Ilookedmore 
closely at the bark and the tree's shape. It wasn't a maple. If 
only I could have closed up that hole! Of course, our brothers, 
Buell and Earl, saw it and reported it at home. I tried to save 
face by saying, "The way to find out if hickory trees ran as much 
sap as maples was to tap one." 

In two more days Mother's pans, buckets, and jars were 
all catching dripping sap. I was on the go from early morning 
till dark carrying sap from trees to kettle and poking tree limbs 
or logs that I could drag into that furnace. Then I could hardly 
drag myself to the house. A few times Dad volunteered to go 
after supper and keep the fire going for awhile. If Buell and Earl 
went too, I always found a big pile of wood beside the kettle 
when morning came. It had become a family project. 

Dad had said between forty to fifty gallons of sap must 
be evaporated to make one gallon of syrup. I kept a rough count 
of the sap I had poured into the kettle. As it became thicker and 
darker, I had to reduce the fire or it would burn on the sides of 
the kettle. When the kettle was more than half empty, I went 
to the house for Mother's advice. She said to draw the fire from 
under the kettle. Then when it had cooled enough, dip it into the 



big milk bucket and pour fresh sap into the empty kettle. Then 
she'd help me carry it to the house to finish on the cook stove. 

What a relief it was to get the bucket of sticky stuff safely 
into the kitchen! 

Mother told me how to cleanse the syrup. We dipped it 
into our dishpan on the kitchen stove. As it heated we spread 
a clean white cloth in the colander and set it over a big canning 
kettle. 

Mother beat nearly a dozen eggs, then stirred them into 
the boiling syrup. What an unappetizing mess it was! Like 
dirty scrambled eggs. We dipped this mess into the colander. 
The syrup dripped through into the kettle. The dirty eggs 
stayed in the colander. When we lifted it off, the kettle was half 
full of clear golden syrup. 

Mother said she'd seal up the syrup while I returned to 
empty the sap buckets and start the fire under the kettle for 
another batch. 

We had maple syrup on pancakes for supper. Dad said, 
Tou've worked hard for days and we've eaten it all for one meal. 
Was it worth it?" 

"But no," I told him, "we have seven pints sealed up." 
Dad couldn't believe it. 

"On Saturday I'll take it to Roodhouse and sell it for you," 
he said. 

When Dad came home from Roodhouse and handed me 
$28 1 could hardly believe my eyes. "I could have sold that much 
more," he said. 

I'll let you know definitely when I'll arrive in Blue 
Mound. I'll travel from Drake by the C and A railroad, then by 
interurban to Decatur, and by Wabash train to Blue Mound. I'll 
stay a week. Hopefully we'll both be sure of jobs by then and can 
make our plans to go to Normal for a term of summer school. 

Love, Stella 



P.S. Did you and the Stickelmans enjoy the maple candy we 
sent? Mother says if you dissolve two or three squares of it in 
a pan of sugar syrup it will taste like the syrup we're eating. 



DEAR GRANDMOTHER 

Hazel Keithley 

This is a letter that I wrote to my grandmother many years ago. 
It brings back memories of my activities as a girl. 

Dear Grandmother, 

Hi, how are you doing. I'm doing fine. School is going 
fine. I wanted to tell you that I have learned to read and write, 
so I wanted to write you a letter. 

I go to Sunnyside School in Hire township. We walk one 
mile to school, after we eat our good breakfast Mama fixes for 
us. 

There are twenty-five other kids in our school. My 
teacher. Miss Blanche Hardy, has her hands full; she teaches 
eight grades in one room. My teacher rides a horse to school 
everyday. The boys in school take care of her horse during the 
day. 

Miss Hardy teaches us history, geography, math, spell- 
ing, physiology, reading, and writing. One thing very important 
that she teaches us is about manners. We sit in double seats and 
are taught not to push and shove. Ilikemy seatmate. Her name 
is Helen Simpson. Sometimes I tease her and she teases me 
back. 

Clifi" Zimmerman always keeps the coal and water 
buckets filled for the teacher. 

Miss Hardy always rings a brass bell every time we have 
to be seated. Grandma, I was real good today and yesterday, so 



186 



Miss Hardy let me ring the brass bell. 

Oh, Grandmother, I wish you could be here next Friday. 
We are going to have a potluck dinner. Our parents get to come, 
and the pupils will present a program. We are going to sing. 
Leslie Kreps and Helen Simpson are in a play. The rest of us are 
going to speak a piece, and mine will be "Old Iron Side." 

Papa played the violin last night. We got to have 
popcorn, and we played checkers, dominoes, and flinch. Mama 
sewed a dress for me. It's gray flannel with a red velvet blouse. 
I hope I get to wear it to school. 

Papa is very busy taking care of our cows. We now have 
six new calves, a lot more work for Papa. He gets a lot of milk 
from our cows. Mama uses the cream to make butter and the 
milk to make cottage cheese. I think we have the best butter- 
milk around. The butter Mama makes is sure good on our 
popcorn and our bread that I eat when I get home from school. 

Mama is planning on raising 150 baby chicks again this 
year, if all goes well. Sometimes Mama lets me carry the feed 
and water buckets. Everyday I get to go and help gather the 
eggs. Mama tells me I have to be very careful gathering the 
eggs, so I don't crack them. 

Grandma, you know Mama, she does everything very 
nice and teaches all of us to do the very best we can do. 

Remember our dog. Frisky? Well, he died. Papa got us 
a new dog, and we named him Rex. Rex is six months old, and 
he is black with white spots on his face. Mama doesn't care for 
Rex because he drags everything up to the back door. I'm sure 
Enid and I will have fun playing with Rex. Papa always wants 
a dog around the farm. 

Maybe Mama and I can come and see you this summer. 
I sure would like to see you. 

Love, Your granddaughter, 
Hazel 



A LETTER TO A SISTER 

Helen Shepherd Shelton 

The following is the copy of an old letter I treasure. It is 
written by a brother to one of his sisters, dated from Cincinnati, 
Ohio, on February 23, 1839. The sister, Mary, became my great- 
grandmother, and she evidently loved to read, as I do. Perhaps 
she was slightly miffed by her older brother's patronizing, 
lecture-type letter. It reads, 

Dear Sister, 

After so long procrastinating, I have at length come to 
the point in earnest of writing a few lines to you. When I 
received yours, I little supposed it would be so long before I 
answered it, but procrastination you know, is my besetting sin 
and it is only from the influence of that vile inclination to put off 
without any good reason for it, that you have been thus long 
deprived of an answer to your kind epistle-. 

As usual my health is good, and hope yours is so, too- Am 
spending my time pretty much as when you heard from me last. 
You seem to be afraid I shall become so absorbed in my studies 
as to forget to think of home and those who are dear to me there. 
But you need have no fears on that account. There is no doubt 
but that my mind will dwell sufficiently on the scene of Payson 
and those it contains and especially those who reside in the 
white home west of the village. (This home is still standing-a 
beautiful residence). You seem to think I must study a great 
deal but you are probably mistaken for it is not much easier for 
me to study now than it used to be. I attempt something in the 
way of study, it is true, but it does not amount to much. 

You are greatly in love with the "Lady of the Manor" it 
seems-have never read it but for some it is a pretty good sort of 
a novel well calculated to afford amusement-but not quite so 
profitable as some reading which would add to your store of 
useful knowledge. Fictitious reading affords great pleasure 



during the perusal, but less probably on after reflections. Such 
reading as is calculated to add to the stock of substantial and 
useful knowledge affords less pleasure at the time of reading for 
to understand it and treasure it up in the memory required. 
Work, and hard work too, and that you are aware, is not very 
pleasant. But the pleasure is to come afterwards when we 
compare and reflect upon the knowledge we have acquired. 
Fictitious reading then affords enjoyment for the time-but that 
which is of a more substantial character affords us the means 
of enjoyment afterwards and an enjoyment which will increase 
the more we indulge in it-and it not only affords us the means 
of enjoyment to ourselves, but the means of being useful to 
others and thus contributing to their happiness also. Fictitious 
reading is an intellectual luxury which it may not be best to 
abstain from entirely, still, if carried to excess it cannot fail to 
be vitiating in its influence on the mind, unfitting it for the stern 
realities of life and for more useful reading-and indeed, when 
I think of the comparative value of fictitious and sound reading, 
I am disposed to give the former but a very small place in my 
estimation. But we are governed by our appetites and passions 
perhaps quite as much as our reason and for that reason 
principally I read novels sometimes myself but not very often, 
though. There are some fictitious writings which would not 
probably injure any person, but they are exceptions to the 
general rule and we should be very cautious in our selection. We 
may conclude, then, that solid reading which will afford us 
knowledge is of inestimable importance-that the reading of 
well selected fiction is in itself a rather innocent amusement 
and much better than not to read at ail-but that reading of 
every novel which may fall in one's way is better than not to read 
anything, I very much doubt. 

Am glad to hear that something is doing towards build- 
ing a meeting house for one is certainly very much needed. The 
little schoolhouse I think must be full to overflowing, especially 
as the population of the Great City — Payson) has increased 



some within the last few months. The weather for sometime 
past has been so warm that we have scarcely needed a fire, and 
it has not only been warm but the sun has beneficently contrib- 
uted his vivifying rays to enlighten and beautify all nature. Our 
weather for the last weeks would do very well for the month of 
April [Here a small piece of the letter was stuck to the wax which 
sealed it, but was stuck to fold, and I was able to gently remove 
it to fill in the above "last weeks," and in the next line, "April"], 
but it has now commenced to rain and I fear it will not be so 
pleasant very soon again. 

Lectures close this week and I have no very strong wish 
to remain here many weeks longer. I can give you no promise 
when I shall show my face. That will depend very much upon 
circumstances so you need not set any time when you may look 
for me. 

Excuse the carelessness of this but accept much love 
from your affectionate Brother 

Mary A. Prince David Prince, Jr. 

And on the back of the very fragile, yellowed hand- 
written folded letter is this P.S. "Give my respects to all my 
friends, the names are too numerous to mention. Sophia's 
(another sister) kind letter was received day before yesterday 
and shall be answered very soon. The $5.00 enclosed was very 
acceptable. Do answer this immediately and tell me all the 
news. 

D. Prince 



A LETTER TO JULIE 

Signa Lorimer 

This letter to Julie, my granddaughter, is part of a series 
of letters that I began writing to her on her first birthday. At the 
time this letter was written Julie lived in LaGrange, Illinois. 
Julie is now 28 years old and lives with her husband in 
Rochester, Minnesota. On January 18, 1989, they became the 
happy parents of a baby boy, Eric. 

This letter I am enclosing was written to Julie when she 
was nine years of age. 

Dear Julie: 

Today is your ninth birthday. A little girl once said to me 
on her ninth birthday, "This is my best birthday. Do you know 
why?" I really didn't. "I'll tell you why," she confided. "When 
you're ten you are old, and when you're eight you are young. But 
nine is in between." 

You may wonder who gave me this bit of insight. Can 
you guess? It was your mother when she was nine years old. 
Now you are nine. Dear Julie, I hope you will always remember 
this special year. The babyhood years are over. You are at the 
noontide of childhood. Every day is a fresh adventure. The 
future is mysteriously far off. One day at a time to be enjoyed 
and savored. Happy birthday, Julie, with nine times my heart! 

You are still young enough to enjoy a story. This story 
is about a tiny stone that I found one day on the beach. You 
know how much fun it is to look for pretty stones that have been 
washed up by the tide? One day I was looking for agates. Do you 
know what agates are? Perhaps Craig has some marbles made 
of agates. When they are polished they are very beautiful. 
Sometimes you have to look for a long time until you can find 
one. After a long fruitless search I was about ready to give up 
looking when suddenly my eyes happened upon a shiny green 
stone. It was small. But there was no doubt in my mind. My 



long search was rewarded. I had found what I was looking for. 
A smooth, translucent stone. The color of turquoise. I held it 
towards the light. A perfect gem. I felt its smoothness against 
the palm of my hand. Every bit of roughness had been churned 
away by the constant grinding of the waves. I was happy. 

With my treasure clutched in my hand I headed for the 
agate store near the beach. In the window were many varieties 
ofagates, polished and for sale. My stone was not for sale. Itwas 
my own and I would always treasure it. I had looked a long time 
for it. And now it was mine. 

Carefully placing my stone on the counter I eagerly 
questioned the clerk, "How much is it worth?" Not that I 
intended to sell it. But I needed someone to appreciate my find. 
Someone to tell me, "You've got a real stone there, little girl. A 
real pretty stone." 

The clerk gave my stone a swift and practiced look. Then 
he laughed. "Just a piece of glass," he said. "A chip broken off 
a fisherman's float. Not worth a thing." 

I was stunned. And suddenly ashamed. Stumbling out 
of the store I threw the stone into my pocket. Then I flung it 
away. Just a piece of green glass! 

That evening I sat beside the lake watching the white 
foam churning against the boulders. The waves crashed against 
the rocks, but a few yards from the wild foam were gouged out 
rocks into which the turbulent waters had been splashed. In 
these recesses were quiet, still pools of water. Looking into 
these tranquil waters I was reminded of my green stone. I 
remembered that it too had been lovely and smooth just as these 
quiet waters were. Then it was that I felt a real sadness. How 
I wished that I had saved that stone. It had been beautiful to 
me when I believed it was an agate. Nothing had really changed 
except the label. I had learned too late that "beauty is in the eye 
of the beholder." I had held beauty in my hand and had thrown 
it away. 

Why am I telling you about a little piece of green glass 



that I found one day on the beach? So that as you grow olderyou 
won't be misled by labels. So that when you find beauty you will 
hang on to it. There is much about us that is sordid and ugly. 
There is much that is wonderful too. You are the judge of what 
is important and grand in your own life. No one can take that 
judgment away from you unless you deliberately or carelessly 
throw it away. When you are tempted to substitute another 
person's valuations for your own, perhaps you will remember 
the story about my stone and how I once held beauty in my hand 
and let it go. 

Remember when you and I saw "You're a Good Man, 
Charlie Brown" and how we laughed when Charlie Brown put 
a paper sack over his head when he saw the beautiful little red 
headed girl? I think we all have a little of the Charlie Brown 
complex in us. We are too shy or too embarrassed or too unsure 
of ourselves to grasp an opportunity when it comes. On the 
other hand we wouldn't want to be like Lucy who knows all the 
answers! Still we need the courage to stay by our convictions 
and our sense of values regardless of what others may say or 
think. It's easy to be wishy-washy. It's easy to go along with the 
crowd. It's hard to stay by your own values when others are 
trying to pull you their way. It's hard to choose the beautiful 
when the shoddy seems more attractive. 

I know that you like to get away by yourself occasionally 
to work on projects that you have set up for yourself to do. Some 
might call this solitude. Orbetteryet, creative solitude. What- 
ever the label, hang on to these creative moments. The loss of 
quiet in your life would be a great tragedy. Sometimes we need 
time to do nothing at all. And at other times we need to be quiet 
so that we can listen to God. A Russian novelist named 
Dostoevski once said, "The one essential condition of human 
existence is that man should be able to bow down before 
sometime infinitely great." You see reverence is a precious 
thing. Our universe is so ordered that if we are blind to its real 
values and to the deep traditions of our culture we harm 



ourselves as well as others. God does not die if we deny Him, but 
something in ourselves dies when we no longer listen to His 
voice. 

Would you like to hear what happened one day when you 
were a very little girl just three years old? Something beautiful 
happened to me and this time I held onto it. One morning you 
and I were sitting by ourselves at the kitchen table ready to eat 
our breakfast. You told me that you had learned to say grace. 
So we folded our hands while you solemnly prayed, "Come, Lord 
Jesus, be thou our Guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed." 
Scarcely had you ended your prayer when with shining eyes you 
hastened to explain to me, "Mommie says when I say grace the 
Lord Jesus comes and sits right here beside me." "He's right 
here," you added happily, placing your hand on the bench 
between us. 

Suddenly there came over me the consciousness of 
something great and real. Something I had lost and rediscov- 
ered. I had known the wonder of the Presence in my mind. But 
now in a flood of awareness I felt the wonder in my heart. You 
gave me that day a fresh outlook, a new understanding. Only 
the childlike can walk with the Eternal. That day I held beauty 
in my hand. 

Dear Julie, here is my birthday wish as you enter the 
mystical, magical land of nine, going on ten. I hope you vwll 
hang on tightly to the convictions you now possess, the values 
that have no price tags. I hope you will appreciate what is true 
and lovely regardless of the labels of others. These values are 
yours and no one can take them away from you so long as you 
hold onto them and never let them go. I know this is true. For 
I once held a beautiful stone in my hand. 

Love, Grandmother 



190 



A LETTER EDGED IN BLACK 

Louise E. Efnor 

Grandma's "keepsake" box held a great fascination for 
me as a child. Her son had hewn the box out of native walnut 
lumber and attached a heavy metal clasp to it so Grandma could 
lock her treasures away from such an eager little curiosity- 
seeker-me! As a child I would wait patiently (sometimes not so 
patiently, fidgeting first on one foot and then the other) for 
Grandma to unlock her precious box and sort through her 
"treasures," hoping there would be a story forthtelling. 

Time has taken its toll; the years have sped by and 
Grandma has long since entered her home in glory. But even 
today her "Iceepsake" box of treasures holds the same fascina- 
tion as of yesteryear. 

Way in the bottom of the box are some very old coins, 
among them some Indianhead pennies, a buffalo nickel or two, 
a victory dime, and some Canadian coins, too. Here's Grandma's 
pension certificate from the government, and some old deeds to 
property sold long ago and forgotten. 

One of my favorites from the box is a letter edged in 
black! The envelope and notepaper have a black border around 
them and were sent to relatives and dear friends living at a 
distance to tell of a death in the family. This one is addressed 
to my Grandma, Cynthia Green, Blandinsville, Illinois, and is 
from her nephew James Mackey in Fort Smith, Arkansas. 
Dear Aunt, 

I come to you this morning in the sweet hour of prayer in 
the deepest sorrow and gloom that has past over myself in a 
good many years. Dear Aunt, pray with me while I take you to 
the bedside of my dying little angel wife and mother. Dear Aunt, 
the sweet little doll past away from this world of toil and trouble, 
pain and sorrow, to that happy home so bright and fair, where 
sunshine shall ever be, where no darkness nor gloom ever come, 
where all immortals sleep in peace, on last Thursday afternoon 



at 2 o'clock at the Mount Carmel Hospital in Pittsburg, Kansas, 
July 5. 

Dear Aunt, my dear wife and mother went from this 
world of sorrow to that sweet land of flowers and met her Savior 
with right hand of fellowship. But the brokenhearted husband 
and father was left behind with two children which are more 
than sweet life to me. They are my guide, my comfort, and my 
pleasure in this hour of sad bereavement. But, my dear Aunt, 
we certainly shall meet on that happy shore where parting 
words shall be no more. Dear Aunt, bow your feeble head in 
prayer when you read this letter and pray for me and my little 
boys. May God help you is my prayer. My little ones are Eugene, 
2 1/2 years, and Laury Larime, 19 months — they are so sweet. 
They are all I have to live for now and so much pleasure to me, 
and Vernie loved them so well. 

Hoping all are well. Trusting I may hear from you soon, 
I remain your loving nephew and children, 

James W. Mackey 

Did you note the love and compassion in the letter as 
James addresses his "Dear Aunt" and he mentions his angel 
wife and his two little boys? Certainly, close family ties must 
have existed in this generation and I wonder if they are so today. 
This letter leaves me wondering what happened to James and 
his two little boys-Did he remarry and did the boys grow to 
manhood? I heard nothing of this family as a child; perhaps I 
shall have to travel to Forth Smith, Arkansas now in these 
golden years of mine and search out these cousins mentioned in 
"A Letter Edged in Black." 



ROMANTIC LETTERS 

Max L. Rome 

Nellie C. Moyes was born in 1 889 in Pontoosuc, Hancock 
County, Illinois. In those days of dirt roads and horse-and- 
buggy and steamboat travel on the Mississippi River from 
Pontoosuc, Nellie, until she reached her "twenties," never got 
farther from home than Burlington, Iowa-fifteen miles upriver- 
and Fort Madison, Iowa-five miles downriver. This was true, 
in spite of the fact that the main line of the Santa Fe Railroad 
between Chicago and Kansas City stopped some trains in 
Pontoosuc. 

By the time Nellie enrolled in Elliott's Business College, 
Burlington, Iowa, in 1908, she was an attractive nineteen-year- 
old wdth beautiful blonde hair, to whom a number of young men 
from Pontoosuc and nearby Dallas City "paid court." 

By 1909 her "steady" was a handsome young man from 
Dallas City, Leaf Knight. In the fall of 1909, Leaf enrolled in 
Medical School in Chicago, and their romance continued by 
correspondence. I have the letters and cards that Leaf wrote to 
Nell from Chicago, including a letter in which he sends her a 
diamond engagement ring and later letters from both Leaf and 
ayoung man, Guy Rowe, who came to Dallas City from Oskaloosa, 
Iowa, via Gem City Business College, Quincy, Illinois in 1912 to 
become Assistant Cashier of Farmer's State Bank of Dallas 
City. 

Leaf wrote to Nell from Chicago on June 12, 1910. 

Dear Nell, 

Gee, but I wish you were here. I have two tickets to "My 
Cinderella Girl" at the Whitney for tonight and I suppose I'll 
have to go alone. There are two girls rooming next to us and I 
may ask one of them to go, although they are not my style. I have 
to have somebody. I don't know whether she will go, but I think 
she wall as she is only a young girl-about sixteen. 



They are a silly pair-the kind that wear big hats, high- 
heeled shoes and paint a little. You know the brand. I've got to 
have somebody. 

Why can't you come up here and get a position as soon as 
you get out of school? There are hundreds of them and a girl that 
attends to business, as I know you would, could certainly make 
good. 

When I got in the other night the train that brought me 
back from you was about three hours late so I went right to bed, 
but I was not destined to stay there long. Horrors, the bed was 
full of bed bugs-I had not slept in that bed before. When I 
turned on the light I saw the bed was literally alive with them. 
I slept on the couch the remainder of the night! 

The next day I raised the roof with the landlady. She did 
something to get rid of them by that evening. 

Well, I'll cut this short as I don't expect bed bug stories 
are very interesting to a college girl. Write soon. 

Leaf 

Leaf wrote Nell again two weeks later, on June 23, 1910. 

Dear Nell, 

I thought I'd be able to go down home for a few days this 
week, but my exams are lasting longer than expected. I study 
most of the time in the day and go out someplace every evening. 
I have gone to all of Chicago's parks and a good many shows. 

As soon as my last exam is finished, I'm coming right 
down to see you. It makes no difference whether you're in 
Burlington or Pontoosuc. What will I do if you decide to take 
that job in Denver? 

Looks as if you could come up and pay me a visit 
sometime this summer. Don't you know someone up here you 
could visit? If not, fake an acquaintance with someone up here, 
and I'll see that you have good care while here. 

Leaf 



His next correspondence to Nell is dated June 16, 1911. 

Dear Nell, 

Nell, here is that long promised diamond. I'm ashamed 
for having you waiting so long. It was the most promising 
looking stone for the money so I bought it. Write and tell me as 
soon as you get this whether it is all right or not and if you should 
return it at once so that I can have it changed. Hoping to hear 
from you that it is all right and that you are well again and 
gaining in flesh and strength. I remain 

Yours lovingly, Leaf 

P.S. I would give a good deal to put this on your finger, but I am 
afraid I won't get to see you very soon though I would like to 
better than anything I know of 

The letters from Leaf all carried 2(Z postage and the 
postcard 1(2. As I recall those were the postal rates into the 
1930s. As I noted earlier, Guy Rowe arrived in Dallas City in 
1912 and soon became part of the young single group which 
included Nell. They were drawn together while Leaf continued 
his medical studies in Chicago, seldom getting back to the 
Dallas City area. In December, 1912, Nell gave Guy some 
handkerchiefs on which she had beautifully sewn his initials as 
a Christmas present and for his January 2 birthday. This was 
his thank you note: 

Dear Nelle, 

I confess I couldn't wait so I opened the package at noon 
today. 

Nelle, they are fine and the initial is so nicely done. I like 
the colored letter too, for I never saw any but white, and this 
lends individuality. I shall only use them on very special 
occasions. I appreciate them the more becauseyou made them. 



Please accept my sincere thanks. 

Wish we could dance tonight, don't you? Wishing you a 
Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. 

Fondly, Guy 

As time went on the close relationship of Nelle and Guy 
escalated, and her relationship with Leaf deteriorated to the 
point that the engagement was broken . She liked Guy's warmth 
and zest for life. Guy was thoughtful and kind to Nelle, and 
never a day went by without his genuinely praising her for some 
facet of her personality or for something she had done or cooked 
for him. 

By the spring and summer of 1916, Nelle and Guy were 
deeply in love, and he would often send a note to her, quoting 
poetry. Here are two examples: 

Nelle, John Keats had you in mind when he wrote 

A thing of beauty is a joy forever; 
It's loveliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness. 

Love, Guy 
My friend Lord Byron and I were talking about you and 
got so inspired that we wrote 

She walks in beauty, like the night 
Of cloudless climbs and starry skies; 
And all that's best of dark and bright 
Meet in her aspect and her eyes 
Thus mellow'd to that tender light 
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies. 

I LOVE YOU 
Guy 



Nelle and Guy were married in October, 1916. In 
August, 1921, their first child was born-ME. In May, 1924, my 
brother Edward was born. Nelle and Guy stayed in love through 
good times and bad, until he died in 1963. Her death followed 
in 1967. 



A WORLD WAR II LOVE LETTER 

Katherine Nola Thornton Cravens 

The years of World War II may have produced more love 
letters than any other era in the history of the world. The war 
and its effects reached to the far corners of the earth. Fighting 
men, married and single, were sometimes gone for years with- 
out a leave of absence. Letters written and received helped to 
relieve the pressure of the seriousness of their position. 

The soldier sometimes poured out his feelings with 
words he may never have written under ordinary circum- 
stances. The love for a girl back home often gave a man the 
incentive he needed to carry on in the face of great adversity. A 
sweetheart represented the possibility of marriage, children, 
and the continuity of his life. 

On March 25, 1945, 1 met Private Joe Seresin in Temple, 
Texas. Joe, a young man from New York, was taking his basic 
training at Camp Hood, near Killeen, Texas. 

Over a period of fourteen months. Private First Class, 
Joseph Seresin wrote me at least one-hundred love letters, all 
classics. I, like many young girls of the time, received love 
letters from several service men during the war years. And 
many service men were the recipient of love letters from more 
than one girl. 

I remember Joe as a great guy. I often wonder if he ever 
thinks of me. I hope he, like myself, has had a happy life. 



Following is one of Joe's letters to me. 

Dearest Darling Kay, 

I love you. I've finally finished the house I was building 
for the lieutenant and it is by far the best house around here and 
possibly on the island, or at least I like to think it is, for I've not 
seen anything to equal it, in all the time I've been here. The 
lieutenant likes it very much. For this past week, he couldn't 
stay away and could hardly wait for me to finish. I had to smile 
at him at times. Anything I wanted, I just had to say the word 
and off he went to get it. The past two days he's even been 
working himself on the painting. He worked pretty late last 
night to paint the ceiling white. He had a large fiorescent light 
in the room that gives off a brilliant white light. The interior is 
all plywood in ceiling, walls, and floor and the closet is too. To 
finish the plywood, we used a blow torch to burn the wood and 
bringout the pretty grain in the wood, then we varnished it. The 
result was very pretty. We even had two Jap PWs painting. I 
finished the shower in stainless steel. It'd be a lovely little 
house— even in the States. I figure it'd cost $2,000 to build the 
same house in Gillespie. For its size it compares in beauty with 
the homes I used to build. The house has a large closet and I 
built five shelves, twelve inches wide and equally spaced from 
floor to ceiling. That's one thing a house really needs is plenty 
of closet space. I even made built-in bookcases for the lieuten- 
ant. What my next job is I don't know but there's plenty of work. 

Outside there is a full moon and it's clear and bright. It 
reflects its silver rays off the swift moving cumulus clouds. The 
stars are like pin-point diamonds in a blue sky. The night is cool 
and refreshing. We have no signs of autumn as there are in 
Gillespie. Everything is green and luxuriant in growth. Possi- 
bly the only sign of the lateness of the year is the shortness of 
the day-it's getting dark around 6:00 p.m. But tonight is lovely 
and would be fine, to have someone to love. I'd love to be with 
you, in your car, parked in a quiet and pretty spot-the lake 



194 



would be fine with the Autumn moon reflecting a silver stream 
across the lake, to bring out the glow of love in your eyes and the 
softness of your lips. We would act with our feelings-thinking 
perhaps-or loving each other, with the radio in a sentimental 
mood. Time seems negligible in moments like this-for our 
wildly beating hearts would never let us sleep until our love had 
been given and returned, for love is the essence that would bring 



a wonderful sleep. I'd love to have you cuddle up in my arms and 
go to sleep, while I smoothed your hair or felt for the beat of your 
heart. I'd hold you to me tenderly and think of how fortunate we 
were to have found our loved one and to be able to love so deeply 
and pleasantly. Until later, Darling, I give you my love and 
would that I could hold you in my arms tonight. 

Your one and only-Joe Seresin 




X ^he Unforgettahle l^ast 



THE UNFORGETTABLE PAST 



Memory is not as simple as it seems. It is not merely a 
recorder of experience, like a filing cabinet, into which every- 
thing goes that is part of someone's past. It is a subtle process 
of interpretation. It keeps only what is important to the 
present-day self. 

Failures, frustrations, and anxieties may be horribly 
oppressive when they occur, but usually they are not of lasting 
importance to us. We can't build a satisfying self-image on 
them, so most of them fade from our retrospective view. 

Positive matters, like stable relationships, new experi- 
ences, personal achievements, and meaningful work are handled 
much differently. They are slowly edited into brief symbolic 
expressions of our self-worth, our uniqueness. And they remain 
with us. They become part of the foundation of our security and 
our confidence. 

Milton A. Powell's "He Started Me Fishing" is a good 
example. He tells of an old fisherman who took an interest in 
him, encouraged him to pursue commercial fishing, and then, 
faced with death, pointed his life toward preaching. That 
episode may not have been important at the time, but after 
years had passed, and Powell had finally become a preacher, it 
emerged as a key aspect of his sense of identity. That memory 
is full of meaning for him. 

Marie Freesmeyer's "Here Comes the Showboat" is based 
on an experience that was obviously remembered because it 
was an exciting adventure, a first-time encounter with the 
magic world of theater on a riverboat. But the careful reader 
will also note that it was part of the author's sense of growing 
up. As she says, "I was fourteen, old enough to be allowed to go 
to such a questionable place as a showboat." The experience 
was meaningful because it symbolized her passage into another 
level of maturity. 



Robert L. Brownlee's harrowing experiences taking heavy 
steam engines across Warren County bridges were also not just 
exciting. They were personally meaningful. They testified to 
his ability to keep a cool head in dangerous circumstances, even 
as a youngster. No wonder he remembered those episodes. 

Experiences that are stressful but come out well in the 
long run are apparently very apt to become preserved in 
memory. "Fleeing Beardstown without Brakes" by Helen Shep- 
herd Shelton is a good example. Another one is Margaret Kelley 
Reynolds' "Hot Lunch at Brewster School: The Old Hen." The 
children may not have had chicken and noodles that day, but the 
young cook finally conquered the old hen-and in the process, 
created a memory that was shared by everyone at school. 

As her vivid memoir so clearly demonstrates, when we 
remember, our feelings are resurrected too. We relive what we 
have lived before, and we derive meaning from that preserved 
experience. Our recollections may seem like the discarded 
remnants of a shattered globe, a heap of fragments; but they are 
really condensations of our emotional lives-symbolic episodes 
that tell us who we are. 

As columnist George F. Will said several years ago, "Our 
continuity is more in our memories than in our physiologies. 
Without memory we could not have a self in any season. The 
more memories you have, the more 'you' you have." 

Memory is, then a kind of compensation for growing 
older. It is an expansion of the self And the act of remembering 
not only preserves us, for a time, but provides continuity with 
our past-our earlier selves. Ultimately, memory interprets us 
to ourselves. So, the memoirs in this miscellaneous section of 
Tales from Two Rivers V, like those throughout the book, are not 
just things preserved, they are selves more deeply understood. 
And if we read them carefully, we can not only learn what 
happened, but what those experiences mean to the people who 
cherish them. 

John E. Hallwas 



199 



HE STARTED ME FISHING 

Milton A. Powell 

In the spring of 1928 Jurd Flemming began to teach me 
how to fish in the IlHnois River near Browning, in southeast 
Schuyler County, Illinois. Sixty years later I'm still fishing. 

My family had moved from the Center Ridge area in the 
northwest part of the county two months earlier. I met Mr. 
Flemming the first Sunday we attended the Browning Method- 
ist Church. He was not the kind of man I expected when I 
learned he was a commercial fisherman. I had always heard 
that men who worked on the river were rough men, lazy, and 
prone to vulgarity. Mr. Flemming was the opposite. He was one 
of the hardest working men I ever met. Not only was he a 
commercial fisherman, he was president of the local bank. As 
Jesus said of Nathaniel, it could be said of Mr. Flemming, 
"There is a man in whom is no guile." He was a Christian not 
only in name, but also in deed. 

He was close to seventy years old; I was fifteen. He took 
an interest in me, as he had in many other boys. I had been to 
the grocery store for my mother and was headed to the post 
office to pick up the mail when I met Mr. Flemming on the 
street. He said, "Milton, come on down to the shop with me. I've 
got a couple of things I want to show you." 

When I got there he showed me fishing nets that had 
been tied but not tared. They were about ten-foot long net sacks, 
three feet in diameter, supported by steel hoops. Funnel shaped 
net inserts with progressively smaller holes trapped the fish in 
the end of the net. He also pointed out baskets made of red elm 
slats. He said, "We bait these baskets with cheese and tie them 
to trees or stakes set in the river. We catch some nice catfish 
with them." 

He showed me a new boat ready to paint. "The steel- 
covered runners on the bottom help guide the boat in the water 
and also enable it to be used on ice. We use the oars when the 



boat is in the water and the poles with hooks on the ice." The 
next January I found how well the boat worked on the ice when 
two brothers took me for a ride. It felt like we were going fifty 
or sixty miles an hour, but it was probably only thirty miles an 
hour. Mr. Flemming had taught them. 

As I left, Mr. Fleming said, "If you'd be interested in 
learning more, come back tomorrow morning." I thought, "I'd 
like to be a fisherman." But that was impossible. My family 
didn't have the money it would take to buy a boat, nets, baskets, 
and other needed equipment. My only hope would have been to 
find a job working for another fisherman. 

I got to his shop the next morning about 10:00. He had 
already been to the river, raised his nets, and sold the fish at 
Vern Bryant's Fish Market, which weekly shipped three rail- 
road cars filled with fish packed in ice to Chicago, New York, 
and other distant cities. 

My first lesson was how to carve a shuttle needle from 
"privy brush" which grew in swampy areas of the river bottoms. 
It was used to knit the nets. He showed me how to make a gauge 
block to size the loops in the net. That was quite a bit for the first 
day. 

The next day, he started me on fish baskets. Red elm 
slats were soaked in water for several days in a horse tank. On 
the day we made baskets, we heated the water for an hour to let 
the slats get hot. This made them pliable enough to bend 
around an iron pipe about twelve inches in diameter. We nailed 
the ends of the slats together. Slats tapered to thin fingers 
formed funnel shaped entrances for fish, but prevented their 
escape. 

As we worked together, he told me how he had set up 
other young men in the fishing business. He taught them to 
build all the equipment needed and fished with them for the 
first season. It was truly on-the-job training. He shared 
proceeds from the sale offish with the young man on a fifty-fifty 
basis. At the end of the first year, the young man could buy the 



200 



equipment for one-half the cost of the materials. And Mr. 
Fleming personally financed that. 

I was going to be a fisherman! I was going to have my 
own business! And I was only fifteen years old. 

In the middle of the third week when I went to the shop, 
he wasn't there. His wife said he was in bed sick. A few days 
later he sent for me. He said, "I won't be able to teach you any 
longer. The doctor said I have only a few days to live." My 
sorrow at hearing this news and my disappointment about not 
being able to learn to have my own fishing business almost 
caused me not to hear the rest of what he said. "God has led me 
to believe that He has a higher calling for you. God wants you 
to be a preacher." 

That set me to thinking that perhaps God was calling me 
to be a preacher. However, I didn't fully accept the call until 
twenty-one years later. I've been preaching almost forty years 
now and have been pastoring my present church, New Hope 
Baptist Church, southwest of Waverly, Illinois, for eighteen 
years. In the long run, I did become a fisherman-a fisher of men. 



WHEN SHERIFF COOK CONFRONTED AL CAPONE 

LaVern E. Cook 

B. E. "Pop" Cook was the former Chief of Police of 
Canton, Illinois, 1934-1942. He never bragged about the old 
days, although he well could have. Sheriff Cook worked hard, 
week nights and weekends too, to keep a "clean" county. He was 
not afraid to go after a man who had a gun and was drunk or 
desperate, even though his own life would be at risk if the 
desperado began shooting. 

B. E. Cook was a big, broadfaced man with a hefty 
handshake. He had flint blue eyes which he could fix in a steely 



stare that was most effective in dealing with youthful offenders. 
Several times when he picked up teenagers for mischievous or 
malicious misdeeds, he would take them in and have the deputy 
watch them in a small room while just outside the open door he 
loudly discussed putting the boys in the "back cell, the one with 
the stinking, stopped up toilet that was crawling with big, black 
waterbugs." That is when the clerk would wink back and say in 
false horror, "You can't put those poor boys back there with 
those big, old rats! Why they chewed the toes off that murderer 
last week!" 

No way would Pop put boys in any cell. Usually by the 
time their parents arrived, the youths were shaking in their 
shoes. After a stern lecture by the sheriff about not ever 
wanting to pick them up again, they were released to angry 
fathers who were ready to take off their belts and head for the 
woodshed. 

Many young men were stopped short of worse crimes by 
Sheriff Cook and his own kind of psychology. Today he would 
probably be sued by some disgruntled parents for upsetting 
their kid, but Cook's way kept paperwork to a minimum and 
prevented petty crimes from clogging the court system. 

Sometimes, B. E. knew enough about what was going on 
in his county not to get involved, like the time a country 
preacher called and was all upset because someone had thrown 
a live skunk in the midst of an evening prayer meeting, causing 
a big stink. Rather than going after the offender, B. E. quietly 
suggested that the preacher no longer "counsel" other men's 
wives alone after choir practice. 

Not much got by B. E. When he heard that Al Capone 
was motor boating down the Illinois River to Havana to set up 
a gangster-controlled gambling and prostitution operation in 
an old mansion, B. E. went to help the Mason County Sheriff 
round up some of his heaviest, tallest deputies and armed each 
with a sawed-off shotgun. He kept in touch with other police 
and was always glad to help them. 



A sliver of a moon gave little light as B. E. waited in the 
dark for the motorboat to dock. Finally, it came in, and black- 
shirted, mean-looking men helped Capone up onto the planking 
as the wake washed in and rocked the floating dock. Then one 
of Capone's men shined a flashlight on B. E.'s grim face and his 
huge form. 

B. E. boldly stepped forward, grabbed the gangster's 
right hand in a powerful, hard handshake, and then told 
Capone he was welcome to put ashore for food, drink, or fuel, but 
if he had any other business in mind, he'd just have to change 
his plans. 

"Well, what ifl stay anyway!" Capone challenged Cook. 

In a deep, low voice akin to a growl, B. E. said "Boys," 
whereupon the heavily armed deputies stepped out from the 
shadows with their weapons pointed right at Al Capone. The 
gangster merely nodded, stepped back down into the boat with 
his thugs, and returned to Chicago. 

It took awhile for one deputy to let go of his shotgun. 
When B. E. asked him what was wrong, the man stuttered, 
"There was another man on that boat and he had a tommy gun 
aimed right at us." "Yeah," replied B. E. "I saw him but he didn't 
use it, did he." 

After B. E. Cook retired from public service, he bought 
the Churchill Hotel on South Main Street. Later, in the 1950s, 
Pop and I operated the Pfisters, a lunch counter/pool hall/candy 
and cigar store on the northwest side of Canton's Square. He 
died in 1967. 

Pop was not perfect by any means. He had a difficult 
time providing for his family during the Depression years, and 
like any man, he had his share of faults and weaknesses. But 
he was a fine, courageous lawman who is well remembered in 
Fulton County. 



HERE COMES THE SHOWBOAT 

Marie Freesmeyer 

My brother and I were busily hoeing sweetcorn in the 
truckpatch when we heard the familiar sound. Although our 
farm lay a couple miles from the Mississippi River, the showboat's 
calliope could clearly be heard. When we heard the first note, 
we immediately stopped our toil. One or probably both of us 
exclaimed, "Here comes the showboat!" 

It wasn't a surprise as we had seen the advance posters 
in town telling of the future arrival of The Cotton Blossom 
Showboat on this date. In fact, we had already asked our 
parents' permission to go. I had never been allowed to accom- 
pany my brothers when they had patronized these "palaces of 
worldly pleasure," as my parents called all showboats. By 
consistent coaxing, I had secured their reluctant consent to 
accompany my younger brother this time. (My older brothers 
already had dates and were looking forward to an evening of 
genuine pleasure.) 

One condition of their consent was that I practice my 
piano lessons and do all my chores without being told. Needless 
to say, I had been a paragon of endeavor all week and needed no 
reminding about any of those arduous chores which came with 
regularity. 

"Do you think we can get there in time to see them play 
the calliope?" I asked. "That depends on how contrary the cows 
are tonight," my brother replied. "You know how they are when 
we are in a hurry to go some place-farther away and more 
stubborn than usual," he added. 

We hoed vigorously for a time in order to get the job done. 
Really, it was futile for us to hurry as there would always be 
another job waiting to be done. Hoeing was to be preferred over 
many other tasks as it left our mind free to dream of the sinful 
pleasures we anticipated. 

Supper was difficult to swallow. The excitement took my 



appetite for the usual hearty meal spread on our long, oil-cloth- 
covered dining table. It was often told us that if we couldn't eat 
we must be too sick to go any place. So I managed to eat, though 
I had to force each bite down with a drink of milk. 

As soon as supper was finished to the point where I 
might be excused, I hurried out to shut up the chicken coops-my 
last chore. Then I could get ready. "Sho-o, you old biddy! Get 
your chicks inside or I'll leave the door open and let the varmints 
get them." Of course, there would be one old hen that wanted 
to do a little more scratching before retiring within the dark 
coop. Usually I would go much later to prop the board across the 
door of each chicken coop; but this night was different and I 
hoped they would cooperate. With a little more persuasion the 
last family was safe inside and I was free to get on with more 
important matters. 

My hair was the next big problem. I was fourteen, old 
enough to be allowed to go to such a questionable place as a 
showboat, so surely I should put my hair up in some sophisti- 
cated way. My cousin and I had experimented with different 
hairdos in front of the mirror. Now I must definitely put it up 
in some soil of bun. My long tresses were quite difficult to 
manage with inexperienced hands and my arms damp with 
perspiration. Choosing a dress was simple since there were 
such a few from which to make my selection. All finished, I 
surveyed my girlish figure in the mirror and decided it would do 
quite well for my evening out. 

My next problem was my brother. He never hurried. 
This evening he seemed to be unusually slow getting ready. I 
knew, however, that once we got on the way he would make up 
for lost time. 

He did! We fairly flew! That Ford touring car was hard 
on my hairdo and I wished that I had found a few more hairpins. 
But the wrind was cooling on my hot face, so I didn't complain. 
Besides I was anxious to get there. 

When we crossed the big iron bridge at the edge of 



Hamburg, we could see that many cars and carriages had 
already arrived. He found a parking place some distance away 
and we walked sedately up the street to join the crowd awaiting 
the captain's signal to come aboard. The very sight of this 
majestic boat sent a thrill over me. Soon the calliope began 
playing and we edged down on the wharf where we had a good 
view of the musician. He was sitting at this large keyboard on 
the top deck where he could view the crowd below and they could 
watch him. He was, indeed, a spectacular sight with his black 
half-sleeves, bow tie, and derby hat. It was a thrill to watch him 
manipulate the keyboard which sent the loud music from the 
steam pipes. It seemed to rock the ground where we stood. 

Then it happened! The captain unsnapped the heavy 
silk cord allowing the eager crowd to proceed up the gangplank. 
We hurried to get into the line headed for the ticket window. I 
thought the line moved much too slowly, but we finally reached 
the auditorium. Now, I would probably consider it quite small 
and gaudy; but then, it was the grandest place that I had ever 
seen. I gazed in awe at all the elegant draperies and majestic 
lighting. With all its finery, it was the ideal setting for the 
elaborately costumed characters who were to entertain us. 

The rows of plush seats and the box seats on each side 
were soon filled with an exuberant crowd. However, once the 
curtains parted and the lights dimmed, a hush of anticipation 
fell over the entire auditorium. 

During the evening we were entertained with a three- 
act melodrama with several vaudeville numbers between each 
act. The play kept us in suspense from the beginning to the very 
end. There was considerable excitement trying to catch the 
villain. Part of the vaudeville consisted of jokes about well- 
known local people, most of whom were occupying the box seats 
in plain view. This created a lot of laughter for the audience but 
some embarrassment for the individuals named. Time passed 
all too quickly. The lights came on and it was time to leave this 
magical world. 



Many times after this eventful evening, I heard the 
calliope of both the Cotton Blossom and the Goldenrod show- 
boats, but never with quite the same thrill. But it always 
elicited the same response, "Here comes the showboat!" My 
brothers and I always stood transfixed until the sound of the 
last note was carried away on the breeze. 



FLEEING BEARDSTOWN WITHOUT BRAKES 

Helen Shepherd Shelton 

One of the first stories my husband told me on an early 
visit to Beardstown was of the great flood of that small city in 
1927. He pointed out many still visible water lines on utility 
poles, homes, and other buildings, describing how the flooding 
river had covered acres of farmland and city streets. The water 
at that time was of such depth that barges, driven by 
paddlewheels, and flat boats owned by river-loving citizens, 
carried cargo and people over the inundated city streets. With 
the exception of childhood years spent in the small town of Hull, 
Illinois, only a few miles from the great Mississippi, I had 
always lived in high areas, unconcerned by any river overflow- 
ing its banks. Even in Hull, although there were times when a 
levee might break, or develop a softness, the town had never 
been the victim of a deluge from the muddy Mississippi River. 
Now, we were married, the year was 1943, and we were living 
in Beardstown with our two small babies, Carole and David, Jr. 
And the Illinois River was rising steadily. 

The river stage on May 13, 1943, was given at eighteen 
feet, and it was projected to reach twenty-six feet by May 19. 
Men were volunteering for sandbagging and watch duty on the 
sea wall, which had been constructed in the late 1930s in a man- 
made effort to control the unpredictable Illinois River. On May 



20, the stage was noted at 26.5 feet. Tension was rising, with 
the swirling river water. Excitement and dread filled the town 
and people began moving furniture and belongings to second 
story levels, if their homes had them. In single story homes, 
blocks were placed under appliances and furniture in an at 
tempt to protect them should the water invade the homes 
Filling stations were attempting to depreciate their gasoline 
supplies by giving gasoline away. Grocery stores were busy 
with families stocking supplies of food for the flood that was 
sure to come. 

All over the state-even the nation-Beardstown was in 
the public eye. The new Governor, Dwaght Green, was keeping 
open communication with the distressed town, and five hun- 
dred Negro troops from Camp Ellis at Lewistown were sent to 
help the city fight the battle. On May 22, following orders from 
the Governor, Mayor Fred I. Cline, speaking for the city council, 
issued an emergency proclamation about the imminent peril of 
a flood. An evacuation order from the Governor ordered all 
women, children, and infirm persons (elderly) to leave the city. 
The river on that morning at 7:00 a.m. had touched 28.6 feet. 

Forty-two hundred people were evacuated from 
Beardstown, leaving only men and troops to guard the city 
against possible looting and the sandbagged seawall. By 
Monday, May 24, at 2:00 p.m., the angry river had reached 
29.45 feet. Still, the seawall with several feet of sandbags atop 
it, held back the turbulent force pounding relentlessly against 
it. 

With the Governor's order to evacuate on the 22nd of 
May, Dave and I packed our little '31 Plymouth coupe with baby 
needs, and clothing for me, because Dave was returning to 
Beardstown to help in the fight against the river. We crammed 
the potty-chair behind my head on the ledge of the seat, and set 
out for Pittsfield, my hometown. Others went to Chandlerville, 
Virginia, Jacksonville, Springfield-wherever they had rela- 
tives or friends who opened their homes to them. The brakes 



204 



were non-existent on the Plymouth. We hadn't had it very long, 
and Dave had been planning to work on it, but hadn't got to that 
job as yet. We had paid $25 for the little car-an unbelievable 
price in today's used car market. Perhaps for $30 we could have 
gotten brakes, too. 

There was no way we could go through Bluffs or Meredosia 
because much of the land in those low-lying towns was water 
covered. The only way we could leave Beardstown on our 
journey to Pittsfield was through Virginia, and then go on to 
Jacksonville. By driving slowly and carefully, we were able to 
reach Jacksonville uneventfully. Approaching a railroad cross- 
ing, my attention was turned to the two little ones (Carole was 
fourteen months old, and little David was six weeks old). 
Suddenly I felt the car jerked to the right, and the wheels 
bumped fiercely over the ties. At the same moment, a fast 
moving freight train went by — and I realized that we were 
traveling down the side of the tracks, along with the freight 
train, two wheels on the ties, and two on the roadbed. And I 
knew, with a sickening feeling in my stomach, that we had come 
so close to being killed by that freight train in a few seconds' 
time. My head had been aching from the potty chair, loose from 
its moorings, hitting me with a steady tattoo. That pain was 
minor and forgotten when I discovered in the worst way that 
other bodily functions can happen, too, when a person receives 
a tremendous, traumatic encounter. 

The rest of the trip to Pittsfield should have been 
uneventful-with the condition our nerves and other things 
were in, but there were even more harrowing experiences in 
store for us before we reached Pittsfield. We knew we would 
have to cross the swollen river at Florence, and that was 
another dreaded encounter coming up. On the road between 
Jacksonville and Florence, sections of the highway (Route 36) 
were out, and barricades had been placed across the gaping 
holes where concrete was missing. When we came to those 
places, and there was no approaching traffic, we were able to 



swing over into the other lane and pass safely. Nothing to that. 
But when there was oncoming traffic at the same rate of speed, 
another barricade was barring our way, and our courage 
wavered considerably. If we could have just stopped and 
waited, all would have been well. And sometimes we were able 
to, but remember, that $25 Plymouth was minus brakes, and 
Dave did the only thing he could think of in those instances. He 
drove around the barricades, up the embankments, tilting 
sometimes at a frightening 45 degree angle, or more. The flood 
had driven us out of our home, and was even now threatening 
inside the car. I held the babies and prayed for all I was worth. 

I can't remember Dave saying a word all the way home- 
especially when we were dodging the freight train and slipping 
around the barricades. Sometimes words aren't necessary. The 
Pittsfield city limit sign never looked so good as it did that day. 

Soon we were driving into the backyard at home, and 
Mother came running from the house, waving her arms in 
gladness to see us safe-and nearly dry. Her smile turned to 
perplexion when Dave leaned out of the car window and yelled, 
"Getoutofthe way,Mom! Get out of the way!" And by the grace 
of the Almighty, and a very tired Plymouth, we finally rolled to 
a quiet stop-a few feet from Mother and home. 

Dave worked on the brakes the next day, and he re- 
turned to Beardstown to share in the watching and waiting. 
The slow fall of the river began on the 26th day of May, and it 
was believed the crisis was over. The Governor was to order the 
re-entry by the evacuated citizens to the town and their homes. 
On May 28, with the still-lowering river stage, Governor Green 
issued a proclamation praising the high courage and grim 
determination shown by the Beardstown people in protecting 
and saving their city. If the sea wall had not been built, a 
twenty-six foot water stage would have put the city neck-deep 
in flood water. Governor Green issued the return home notice 
on June 3, and by 6:00 a.m. June 4, four hundred cars were in 
line to wait for the firing of the gun at 9:00 a.m. to re-admit the 



homesteaders. Although the transportation was different from 
the land-grabbing stampedes of early settlers, there was the 
same element of gladness and eagerness to return to their 
homes after twelve days in exile. 



THE RUSHVILLE TORNADO 

William P. Bart low 

March 30th, 1938, was a fateful date for Rushville and 
Schuyler County. Spring was early that year with warm 
summer-like temperatures all through March. Fruit trees were 
blooming and spring flowers that normally did not bloom until 
late April were in full color. As a senior in Rushville High 
School, the whirl of school life and graduation in May tended to 
be the focal point of all my energies. Looking back, it was a time 
of carefree living with no major problems except those revolving 
around school. Life was more leisurely in those days, or so it 
seemed, but maybe that was because I was a teenager. I was 
living at home with my parents, along with my brother Ted, my 
sister Nancy, and my maternal grandfather, C. W. Eifert. Our 
home on South Liberty Street was a conventional bungalow of 
wooden construction with a full basement. 

March 30th dawned warm and hazy with summertime 
temperatures. The sky had a peculiar haze that day and the 
atmosphere was laden with high humidity and a warm sun 
trying to cut through the haze and moisture. That noon, going 
home for lunch, I shed my winter clothes and donned summer 
clothes that were more comfortable to wear the afternoon 
session of school. As the afternoon wore on, the skies became 
more heavily laden and storm clouds began to gather in the 
western sky. Lightning zigzagged across the heavens, with 
great claps of thunder sounding as though the heavens were at 



war firing heavy artillery. Outside, the winds were calm with 
only the crashing of thunder bolts to break the ominous silence. 
Classes were held as usual with no one paying too much 
attention to the gathering storm clouds on the horizon. Weather 
forecasters giving storm warnings were not likely today, for 
while we had radio, it was only AM frequency, and the lightning 
made so much static you couldn't hear anything. Hence, there 
were no warnings of the impending storm . As the clouds became 
heavier and the skies darkened, all the lights in the classrooms 
and corridors were turned on. 

During the last class hour of the day, I was in the 600- 
seat auditorium with its large plate glass windows facing west. 
Margie Dean (later to be my wife) was standing with me in front 
of those windows watching the storm gather momentum. At 
3:40 p.m. we observed a large green boiling cloud come raging 
out of the southwest charging toward us like a fast express 
freight train. With it came a roaring wind and rain carrying 
sticks, boards, and trash, which plummeted against the big 
glass windows. It beat so hard against those windows that we 
stepped back away, fearful they would break. At that moment, 
the electricity went off, leaving the building in darkness. We 
knew it was a bad storm, but in those days during a thunder- 
storm we often experienced power interruptions so an electrical 
failure did not excite anyone. Although several people later 
reported seeing tornado clouds, as we watched the impending 
storm we saw no funnel clouds. 

Within five minutes, school was dismissed and we all 
proceeded to the east door where small groups of students 
gathered to discuss the storm. Reports were getting bigger as 
someone would arrive telling of damage about town. Someone 
reported the cornice on the Rushville State Bank had blown off. 
Another reported the old three-story wooden broom factory 
building on South Congress had blown over and was lying in the 
middle of Congress Street. By then the storm had passed and 
the skies were beginning to clear. I started to walk home when 



206 



Carter Stephens stopped to tell me that our house had been 
blown away but no one was injured. It was too incredible to 
believe! 

Someone offered to drive me home, which I gratefully 
accepted. As we started down South Liberty we could see the 
street was blocked with downed trees and power lines from 
Madison Street on south. I jumped from the car and ran as fast 
as I could go toward home. The 200 block on both sides of South 
Liberty between Madison and Clinton was hard hit. Houses 
with roofs blown off. One large two-story brick house had every 
Vfcdndow blown out, wath the window curtains sticking straight 
out like arms. Massive big trees were blown over blocking the 
streets, and piles of debris were everywhere. Beginning at the 
intersection of Clinton and Liberty and going down to Logan 
Street there was less damage. But starting south from Logan 
Street there was heavy damage. The first house north of ours 
belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Eales, and although it was 
standing, the roof was gone as were all the windows, and the 
house had been shifted on its foundation. 

As I ran toward our house, I could see ahead that it was 
totally demolished. My mother later related what had hap- 
pened. My sister Nancy, two years old, had been laid down in 
a back bedroom for her afternoon nap. The thunder and 
lightning became so vivid and loud that she became frightened 
so Mother picked her up and carried her into the adjoining 
bathroom. My grandfather was in the front part of the house. 
As the storm intensified, my mother became concerned and 
carried Nancy into an adjoining front bedroom. At that instant, 
a blast of wind broke a large window in the adjoining dining 
room and Mother, aware of things blowing about the room, 
started to lay Nancy down and go see what she could do, but that 
was the last she remembered. The next thing she knew she was 
lying in the only grassy spot around with Nancy still in her arms 
and it was raining heavily. She pulled a mattress nearby over 
them and waited. 

In the meantime, my grandfather had been watching 



the storm and later said that it came in three blasts. The first 
broke the windows, the second took off the roof, and with the 
third, the house just flew apart, all within a matter oi seconds. 
He was thrown against a large upright piano and suffered a 
broken thumb but otherwise was uninjured, as were Mother 
and Nancy, although Mother had been hit a hard blow on her 
right eye. 

Most of the furnishings in our house were lost. There 
were a few items that made it through the tornado, including 
the clock that sat in the dining room and a few pieces of Mother's 
Haviland China, but most things were smashed. The clothes I 
had taken off at noon were never found. 

Many other homes were severely damaged. Also, imme- 
diately to the east and south of our house about one hundred 
yards was the Bartlow Packing Plant, which suffered major 
damage. Two 75-foot steel smoke stacks were lifted from their 
base on the tops of two high pressure steam boilers and set down 
in front of the fire doors, but they still remained erect with guy 
wires intact. The meat coolers were unscathed, and with the 
exception of no electricity, there were no problems in that area, 
but some masonry walls in several of the rooms in the rear had 
collapsed and there was heavy damage to the livestock barns 
and pens. 

Within a few hours, the power company crews had 
electricity restored to most of the city with the exception of the 
storm damaged areas. By the next day power was restored to 
the packing plant, and arrangements were being made to re- 
erect the smoke stacks. By the following Monday, business was 
carried on as usual. 

More than half a century has passed since that fateful 
day with no recurrence of such a fierce storm in Rushville, but 
those who were around to experience those days will recall the 
help of neighbors and friends during the reconstruction that 
followed. Despite the savage wind, Rushville became a bigger 
and better community. 



STEAM ENGINES AND BRIDGES 

Robert L. Brownlee 

"Never cross a bridge before you come to it" is good 
advice, but even better is "Don't try to cross every bridge you 
come to." I speak from experience. There is a cold tingle of raw 
fear that runs up my spine when I remember some of the close 
calls I've had moving big steam engines across old bridges in 
Warren County, Illinois, in the early 1900s. 

It was not uncommon for a steam engine to break 
through a bridge, but it was uncommon for the engineer to be a 
lad of twelve or fifteen years. That was when I started handling 
steam engines for my older brothers, who had all kinds of heavy 
machinery. They'd get a job set up and then I'd run the engine. 
All I had to do was watch the gauges and keep up a head of 
steam. As I got older, I did more and more until I became a fair 
mechanic. We had to move from place to place as we thrashed, 
and that meant crossing all sorts of bridges on the back country 
roads. 

One day my brother and I were moving a big Gar-Scott 
engine to a sawmill site. He was steering and I was at the 
throttle. We were crossing Henderson Crick on a long bridge 
with steel girders and somehow he got off course just enough 
that the drive wheels were straddling one stringer. We were 
both sitting on the tool boxes, one on either side, when there was 
a loud crash and we stopped dead still. The rear of the engine 
fell a couple of feet and came to rest on the steel girder. The 
drivers were chewing away at the planks but couldn't move 
ahead. When the engine dropped, it threw us both off and, 
luckily, out of danger. We were shook up and scared but unhurt. 
1 jumped up and shut off the power. Then we sat down and tried 
to figure out what to do to get us back on our way. We had a long, 
heavy steel bar that we laid in front of the drivers. Then we put 
planks lengthwise across the bridge as we should have done in 
the first place. When I put just a touch of power to the wheels 



they caught the pry bar and climbed right up on top of the new 
planking and away we went. By that time we had quit shaking 
and we got a couple of men to help us fix the bridge floor. We got 
the rig to the sawmill before dark and I wondered how we could 
have been lucky enough to get out of that deal so easily. 

The year I was fifteen I ran that same big engine on a 
thrashing run for fourteen days. I got $5.00 per day and that 
money had to last me until corn shucking time in the fall. So I 
was glad when my cousin, Elsy Kuncaid, came by with an offer. 
He wanted me and my brother Roy to thrash this big run, but 
Roy was too busy to do it. Elsy and Roy had made a deal: so 
much a bushel-me to run the engine, Elsy to run the separator, 
and get a man to haul water and coal . This was on Thursday and 
we wanted to start on Monday. It takes a good while to cover 
fifteen miles with a steam engine. I asked Elsy if there were any 
cricks to cross and he said, "Yeah, and one of 'em is pretty good 
sized." We decided we'd better take a look at it. It was about 
twenty-four feet long and not in very good shape. "That's a 
darned weak bridge," I said. "I'm not sure I want to try crossing 
it." "Well, there's another one about five miles on down the 
road." It looked fine. It was only twenty-four feet long and had 
steel beams that rested on concrete abutments, so that was the 
one we picked. 

Friday morning we started out pulling a separator and 
a water tank. When we got to the bridge, I asked Elsy if he 
wanted to ride or to wade across. He decided to ride so we sat 
on the tool boxes, one on either side of the platform. Everything 
seemed all right as we pulled on. There were some rough planks 
for the front wheels to go over and the engine had to work harder 
to push across. Almost at once, the drivers began to spin and 
that piled loose planks up behind them until they jammed. 
Then when the drivers did take hold, they pushed the whole 
bridge ahead just far enough that the end slid off the abutment 
and fell down on the crick bank. The tool boxes we were sitting 
on folded up against the engine. It threw me clean across the 



208 



creek and I landed on the shore. Elsy flew over the railing and 
landed in three or four feet of water. And there sat the engine 
with the drivers grinding away and still pushing at the bridge. 

It all happened so quick we didn't know what had hit us. 
And there we sat, half dazed, not knowing what might happen 
next. I could see that the end of the bridge was down on the 
creek bank just in front of the abutment and the front end was 
hiked up but still on the bridge floor. I jumped in the water and 
waded across and shut off the power. Elsy climbed out and we 
looked it over and found that the stringers had never been 
attached to the concrete abutments so when the pressure was 
put on, the whole structure slid forward a couple of feet and 
down she went. 

Now we were in a hell of a fix; but by piling some old 
planks in front of the drivers and running the engine real slow, 
we got it raised up enough that the engine climbed up the 
approach to the bridge and I took her on across. It was a tricky 
stunt, but it worked. Some of the local farmers helped repair the 
bridge. In an hour or two we were on our way again and. By 
George, Monday morning we were thrashing. 

The last time I had trouble on a bridge I was bringing an 
engine up to Dad's place from Old Man Winbiggers so we could 
finish thrashing. It was an old twenty-five-horse double Gar- 
Scott and it weighed over twenty tons. There were two bridges 
to cross. I made the first one without any trouble. The second 
one was on the Henderson Creek and was about seventy feet 
long. It was all steel and looked o.k. I was maybe thirty feet out 
when she began to sway sidewise, sort of slow and deadly. It was 
eerie; scared the Hell out of me. It shuddered to a stop and 
swung back. I thought, "Whatll I do? Jump thirty feet into the 
creek or ride her out?" Pretty soon it swung back to the other 
side and stopped. I stopped. The old bridge was shaking and 
quivering worse than I was. I found that the tie rods along the 
sides that stabilize the bridge were loose, one more so than the 
other. When the bridge swung one way the rod on the opposite 



side would tighten up and pull the whole thing back in that 
direction. Each time the vibration got stronger. I knew it could 
finally collapse the bridge. Now I was really scared. The bridge 
might go at any minute, or so I thought. Both of us quit shaking 
a little bit and I got back on and drove very slow and steady all 
the way over. You can be sure I didn't take the rig back to 
Winbigger! 

I must have been close to twenty at the time, so this was 
no small boy's fright. I didn't panic or "freeze to the throttle." 
My mind was perfectly clear all the time. That was the most 
frightening experience of my life and I've been in some mighty 
tight spots. 



HOT LUNCH AT BREWSTER SCHOOL: 
THE OLD HEN 

Margaret Kelley Reynolds 

It was the fall of 1938. I was a W.P.A. Worker (Works 
Progress Administration) and was assigned to cook at a hot 
lunch program at a school that was then known as Brewster 
School. There were fifteen pupils and the teacher to cook for. 
The school was about two miles from my home in a small town 
and I walked both ways, unless I was fortunate enough to catch 
a ride. The teacher at this school was one I had gone to in the 
seventh grade, so it wasn't as difficult as it might have been, 
although she told me I was on my own as far as planning the 
cooking-SHE hated to cook. With a noon meal sufficient to feed 
sixteen people, I was always grateful for donations-or nearly 
always! 

The kitchen was set up in one end of a long hall, and was 
known as the clothes hall because the pupils used the other end 
for their jackets, coats, galoshes, etc. I'm sure the smell of 



209 



cooking must have clung to all of their clothes. The kitchen 
consisted of a three-burner pressure gas stove with an oven, a 
cupboard, and a table with a water-bucket and dipper. The 
water was carried by bucket from a pump outside and was 
generally carried by volunteer pupils. I had a lot of volunteers 
the first week I was there. They were the most helpful and 
thirsty bunch of kids I'd ever seen. They were allowed to get a 
drink whenever they felt thirsty and they felt thirsty a lot that 
first week. That old granite dipper clanged and banged as it hit 
the sides of the old galvanized water bucket. Our menu 
consisted of meat if possible, chicken or beans, fruit and milk, 
and either cupcakes or bran muffins. The pupils were allowed 
to make suggestions for the meal, and I must admit it was 
interesting to find out that you could cook a ground-hog! I 
didn't! The kids were very good about trying to bring something 
from home and it was up to me to figure out how to use it, hide 
it, or bury it-as I did a skinned and pretty rank coon carcass. 

One day a nine-year-old boy, who was an only child from 
a well-to-do family, offered to bring an old hen to cook so that we 
could have chicken and noodles the next day. He loved noodles. 
In fact, he loved to eat and ate anything and everything that was 
left each day. Sometimes I used to think he would eat anything 
that didn't eat him first. Both the teacher and I were surprised 
when he offered to bring a chicken because, after sending a note 
home with him for seven weeks, we'd sort of given up. But we 
told him to bring the chicken, and after lunch that day, the 
teacher gave him permission to watch me make the noodles to 
be ready for the next day's lunch. The next day the teacher met 
me at the door-stoop of the school house and said, "We've got a 
problem." When I looked at the dirty old gunny sack tied with 
a binder twine string, lying on the ground and giving a squaking 
sound every time one of the kids punched the sack with a stick, 
I knew I was in trouble. We had a live hen! 

I had never killed a chicken. My husband had always 
killed them by cutting their heads off with a hatchet. We didn't 



have a hatchet. The teacher was no help; she'd never even 
dressed a chicken. She just rang the bell for school to take up 
and told me I was on my own. You might say, she chickened out! 
It took quite awhile to carry enough water to fill a five gallon 
lard can to heat to scald the old hen and get her ready to pick. 
But first, I had to kill her. I'd seen my mother grab a chicken by 
the neck and wring around and around until the head popped 
off It looked easy when she did it. I was sure I could do that. 
Well, I grabbed that old hen by the neck and started swinging 
around, and around, and around, but that old hen's neck just got 
longer and longer, and her head never did pop off. About the 
time I was ready to give up, school recess started. I then had an 
audience of fifteen jumping, screaming kids all yelling advice. 
"Pull harder!" "Yank it!" "Get a knife!" Finally, one boy said, 
"My mother always steps on their head and pulls it off." By that 
time my nerves were so shot, I would have tried anything. So, 
with my audience yelling encouragement, I stepped on the head 
of that poor old hen, shut my eyes, and pulled. The head flew off 
and blood flew all over me and some of the kids. I know that 
tough old hen flopped around for at least ten minutes. To this 
day, I get sick just thinking about it, and I haven't killed a 
chicken since. 

It was too late for our chicken and noodles that day, so 
the teacher asked the kids to volunteer to help make potato soup 
for lunch. They all volunteered, but she would only let five help 
me. We really would have had better soup if we had used the 
peelings, because out of a bushel of potatoes, we had very few 
left. There was more on the peeling than in the pot. But, the 
kids were real proud of the soup they helped make and as they 
always said, "Just think, if we hadn't got that old hen, we never 
would have had so much fun." The kids that were at school that 
day are now grandparents, but they still talk about the day I 
battled the old hen, and they had to make potato soup for lunch. 



210 



RURAL ELECTRIFICATION IN MORGAN COUNTY 

Mary I. Brown 

Rural electrification is accepted by those fifty years old 
and under as a taken-for-granted fact of life. Those of us who 
remember what life was like before its time give it a higher 
rating. Sixty or seventy years ago, the only outdoor light was 
daylight. The kerosene lantern, after darkness fell, lighted our 
way sufficiently if it became necessary to leave our homes. 

Few rural homes had their own set-up to power "electric" 
lights. The prevailing method used was kerosene lights in my 
growing-up years. That did not change for many years after my 
marriage. My husband remembers when (as a child) he visited 
his grandmother, who lived in the nearby village of Manchester, 
before electricity came. At nightfall the village watchman came 
and manually lighted the street lamp at the end of the board- 
walk. 

The person who devised the kerosene lamp was no 
dummy. No doubt it was someone weary of candles. It took 
ingenuity to perceive something that would light up a room 
from a woven cotton wick suspended in kerosene. The glove 
enclosing it was of no less importance. The lantern for night- 
time outdoor emergencies was built on the same principle. 

Lamps were continuously improved. I remember our 
great "Rayo" lamp given us by a relative. It had a gleaming 
metal base with a milk-glass shade which sat on a tripod over 
the burner assembly and chimney. We were able to read at 
night by it. The children were able to do their homework from 
school. Care of the lamp was tedious. Daily the kerosene had 
to be replenished and the globe washed and polished for best 
results. Turning the wick too high caused smoking and smudg- 
ing of the chimney. 

We lived in the southwestern part of Morgan County. 
One day two gentlemen came to our door asking us to put our 
names on a list of petitioners to get electricity along our road. I 



believe one man's name was Rawlins. I do not recall the other 
name. We signed that petition and later became charter 
members of Illinois Rural Electric, our cooperative. That was in 
mid-1930. Money was at a premium most everywhere, espe- 
cially in rural areas. Those forward-looking men, however, 
spent their time and energies to work for a dream. I well 
remember how big the $68 bill for wiring our five-room house 
looked at that time. 

My husband was told he could get work when actual 
construction began. He applied and was assigned to the hole- 
digging crew. No, they did not dig them with a tractor and 
auger. They used good old elbow grease, a long-handled shovel, 
and a crumber. They were two very unique hand-operated 
tools. The shovel was broad and necessarily long-handled. It 
was fashioned somewhat in the manner of a spade being shaped 
"dished out" and of metal which kept a sharp edge. My husband 
said this made digging the six-feet-deep holes (seven feet for a 
yard light) easier than it sounds. The other tool was to "crumb" 
the loose dirt from the hole. It had a very long handle with a 
rounded devise to do the "crumbling." The two tools were heavy 
and difficult to carry the long distance between the holes. 
Sometimes the foreman would assist the men in going from the 
hole just dug to the next one by picking them up in a pick-up 
truck and transporting man and tools. There was no required 
number of holes, but digging six in an eight-hour day was 
considered a good average. The pay was four dollars per day. 

My husband dug his first REA hole on highway 67 at the 
top of "Big Sandy" hill. To this day when we drive along there 
we are very apt to comment sometime concerning it. It is always 
remembered with a sense of pride. 

The poles were strung by a follow-up crew. The trucks 
that hauled the poles on trailers and the wench that maneu- 
vered them into place were smaller than ones I see now. 
Somehow they accomplished the same end. In places where 
road banks were narrow, poles were put up on an acquired field 



211 



right-of-way. 

The day seemed a long time coming. Eventually, the 
wire crew came and strung the wire. The electricians followed 
up. The year was 1937 when our lines were completed and 
energized. That was a memorable event. At supper when we 
turned the light on over the table, there was a deafening silence. 
It was broken by my husband saying, "Well, I feel like I'm up on 
a stage somewhere." 

In this year, 1988, as I look out my west window at 
nightfall and see the lights dotting the countryside, I think 
about how much "warmth" electricity has given us. 



MOUTH-WATERING HOMEMADE BREADS 

Helen E. Rilling 

It has been three-quarters of a century since I ate those 
mouth-watering hot breads mother used to made. The smell of 
fresh-baked bread still brings back memories of those lofty 
brown rolls peeping over the sides of a three-inch black baking 
pan and crowding for space with the other twenty or thirty rolls. 

We lived on a livestock and grain farm in eastern 
Morgan County near the town of Alexander. Several hired 
hands lived as part of the family most of the year. Along with 
ourfamily of six, we filled a big table in the dining room. Three 
meals a day the year around consumed a lot of food which 
included lots of hot breads beside the huge loaves of "light" 
bread mother baked twice a week. 

Among the hot or quick breads that we liked best were 
pancakes, cornbread, hoecakes, and light as a cloud biscuits. 
Mother's pancakes were prepared in a gallon crock. She'd break 
a half-dozen eggs into the crock and beat wdth her hand-held 
beater until light and fluffy. Into this she sifted flour, salt. 



baking powder, and a spoon or two of sugar. Melted butter was 
added with milk until the batter was just right for pouring. 
Mother seldom measured ingredients but just seemed to know 
a pinch or handful of something was all that was needed to bring 
a recipe to perfection. Three or four frying pans would be 
heating on top of the Home Comfort range with the hot lard 
beginning to spit. Mother's pancakes were plate size. She'd flip 
them over when the tops were full of bubbles. Heated plates 
waited in the warming oven, and as she worked the piles of 
pancakes grew high. When the men arrived from chores and 
milking, mother took the plates, hot pancakes, a pitcher of 
maple syrup, sorghum molasses, and a bowl of freshly churned 
butter to the table. Mugs ofsteamingcoffee were poured. There 
would be little conversation at times like this around the 
breakfast table. Sometimes there was a surplus of batter. Since 
nothing was ever wasted in those days, mother would add a bit 
more sugar, flavoring, and flour and bake a nice light egg cake 
for our school lunches. 

Biscuits were the usual fare for breakfast on a farm. 
Mother used a large wooden bowl haii-full of flour to mix them 
in. She'd add baking powder and salt. Pure white lard would 
be mixed in, then milk poured into the bowl and mixed until the 
mixture could be turned out onto the bread board and kneaded 
a time or two. Rolled out about one and a half inches thick and 
cut with a shaip round cutter, they were transferred to a well 
greased pan and flipped over once so the melted fat glistened on 
the tops. Popped into a hot oven-one that mother checked the 
heat by sticking her hand into the oven for a second-they rose 
to a height of two and one-half inches and turned a golden 
brown. Sometimes if mother was in a hurry, she flattened the 
dough right in the baking pan and crisscrossed it with a sharp 
knife. We kids loved these diamond-shaped biscuits. Plates of 
mother's biscuits piled eight to ten inches high would disappear 
in minutes. 

Once in awhile when the men had been busy harvesting 



crops or the weather was bad and the roads were deep in mud, 
no one went to town for supplies. Then mother had to make soda 
biscuits. We didn't Hke them very much and would beg Father 
to make the trip to Kaiser's General Store in Alexander that 
very day. 

Cornbread was usually served at the noon meal. It was 
delicious with wild greens in the spring or green beans when 
gardens were producing. Cornbread was a must when dried 
beans and a piece of cured ham were cooked together. Mother's 
southern cornbread was deep and rich, and delicious with fresh 
butter and sorghum molasses swirled until it looked like marble. 
The big pans of cornbread were cut into three-inch squares and 
the tops and bottoms were crusty brown. There was a delightful 
smell all through the house when cornbread was baking. 

Mother raised turkeys. When she had small poults to 
feed, she'd bake large pans of cornbread with the egg shells 
crushed right into the batter. She added bits of meat or 
cracklins if they were available. We'd snitch pieces of the 
cornbread to eat while it was cooling. The shells were no 
problem for us; we just spit them out and enjoyed the stolen 
treat. 

Hoecakes were the speciality of our father. He'd make 
them for supper when mother was ill. He stirred one cup 
commeal into one and one-half cups boiling water to which a 
teaspoon each of salt and sugar had been added. Into the 
spitting hot frying pans he poured circles about four inches in 
diameter and quickly flipped them over to brown both sides to 
a crusty and lacy perfection. Sometimes he flipped them high 
in the air to make us laugh and often they missed the pan when 
they came down. There was a terrible smell from the burning 
batter. We always loved hoecake suppers. It was a warm and 
loving time filled with much laughter in the golden yellow light 
from old fashioned kerosene wall lamps in the cozy kitchen. 

Mother baked the best rolls and loaves of bread that I 
have ever tasted. She would use several barrels of flour in a 



year. Father brought it home in a box wagon and stored it in a 
large wooden box in the hall at the top of the stairs. 

Mother was very careful to have clean utensils for her 
breadmaking. Her breadboard was scrubbed until it was 
almost white. She boiled potatoes the night before bread- 
baking day. No salt was ever added to those potatoes as they 
cooked, and we were warned to never touch the potato water she 
saved to use in her bread starter she set the night before with 
cakes of dry yeast and some flour. 

Mother was fortunate to have a large bread mixer. It 
was aluminum and had a mixing hook that worked down the 
dough after it had raised the first time. This saved mother all 
the hard work of hand-kneading the dough. The dough was 
formed into three or four loaves to each large pan. These pans 
were set in a warm place until the dough was double in size. 
Mother baked three or four large pans twice weekly. The loaves 
were turned out onto racks and the tops were buttered until 
shiny and the rich butter trickled down between the loaves and 
rolls. 

The loaves of bread were cooled and stored in stone jars 
covered with a clean dish towel and a tight wooden lid. If the 
bread became dry before the next baking day, mother sliced the 
bread, sprinkled it with water, and heated it in a hot oven. 
Leftover bread was used in a pudding rich with eggs, raisins, 
and flavored with cinnamon or nutmeg. This was served with 
thick cream and was a popular dessert when I was a child. 

For threshing-day dinners and big family gatherings, 
store-bought bread was brought home from town. We loved 
those soft thin slices. But it was sort of tasteless after mother's 
hot brown rolls and crusty loaves. We gladly returned to our 
little world of delicious home-made breads hot from the Home 
Comfort and spread with dandelion-yellow butter, honey, apple 
butter, and other good things. 



213 



LOST TRAIL BARBAREE 

Ruhy H. Bridgman 

During the 1930s Roodhouse, Illinois, at one time a 
flourishing railroad town with three large hotels, was strug- 
gling to maintain its equilibrium as its past grandeur was 
slowly fading. Many people saw their once flourishing finances 
also diminishing. But this didn't seem to be much of a problem 
to a group of young energetic "kids," full of fun and enthusiasm 
because they were busy enjoying special activities of the town. 
One of these activities was a lively game called "Lost Trail 
Barbaree." 

"Lost Trail Barbaree" was a group game. A large troop 
of kids would gather under a big light at the town square and 
divide into two groups. The first group ran off to get a "head 
start," and the second group was supposed to follow and "track 
them down." But the way in which we played the game, the 
second group would usually run in an opposite direction. Each 
and every one of us whenever he felt the urge would yell, 
"Looooooooost Traaaaaai] Barrrrbareeee!" We all felt the urge 
quite frequently, and it was a great, glorious cry! It fulfilled a 
primeval need to be glad to be alive and to feel free! I think the 
Gk)od Lord looked down and smiled, "turned up" the light of the 
moon, and added a little more silver shine to the earth as we ran 
whooping all over town. 

In about an hour, we would meet back at the square, 
divide into other groups, and go howling once more into the 
night. At the end of the evening, we would gather once more at 
the square, thoroughly refreshed after all the running and 
"hollering," bid each other good-night, and troop happily home. 

Even now, when the moon is full and there is a silver 
shine over all the land, I yearn to burst forth from my home in 
Jacksonville and go racing down the street crying, "Looooooooost 
Traaaaaail Barrrrbareeee!" Since there are three other former 
Roodhousians on my street, I know their ears would twitch and 
out of their doors they would come. 



MY QUEST TO KNOW ABOUT MY 
GREAT-GRANDPARENTS 

Marjorie J. Scaife 

"Where did Elizabeth Anderson and Willis Fulp come 
from?" 

The answer to this seemingly simple question about my 
great-grandparents presented no problem to me-a budding 
genealogist. All I had to do, I thought, was ask my mother. How 
naive I was. So began a chase that lasted eight years and 
unearthed more than I was looking for. 

During that search I learned much about how my ances- 
tors lived. I also learned how they moved around and made it 
very difficult for descendants to find them. Despite the lack of 
cars, good roads, and airplanes, they seemed to jump from state 
to state like fleas. But a most important side benefit of all this 
was getting acquainted with my mother in a different way. 

When I asked my mother for any family records, she 
gave me the marriage record of her own mother, Lydia Fulp, 
who was the daughter of Elizabeth Anderson Fulp. This 
valuable document stated that Elizabeth's husband, Willis, was 
born in North Carolina. In North Carolina's 1850 census, I 
found Willis and his parents while he was still in school. That 
was the last I could find about Willis Fulp for several years. So 
I switched to researching Lydia. 

As to Lydia, in this marriage record I found that she was 
born in Clay County, Illinois. While I never found a certificate 
of her birth, the 1860 Illinois Census turned up Willis Fulp and 
Elizabeth Anderson in Clay County with a daughter, Lydia. So 
much for Lydia until later. 

When I complained to my mother that I couldn't find 
anymore records for the Willis Fulps, she casually said, "Why 
don't you look under Armstrong?" 

"Armstrong?" I was puzzled. 

"Well, Elizabeth did remarry after Willis died." 



"Why didn't you tell me she remarried?" 

"You didn't ask," was my mother's answer. 

At this point I began to study my mother more closely 
and pay more attention to her answers, to listen with "the third 
ear." I was beginning to suspect that she didn't volunteer to tell 
everything she knew. 

Since I wasn't getting anywhere with the beginning of 
the mystery, I decided to try to find the end. I could never find 
any official record of the death of Willis Fulp. The 1917 death 
certificate of Elizabeth Armstrong was found in Morgan County, 
but there was not one word that would help find her family. 
There was the death record but no gravestone. I turned again 
to my mother. 

"You said Elizabeth lived with your family for years- 
made hot biscuits for breakfast everyday. If she lived there so 
long," I asked, "didn't she ever visit other relatives? Where did 
they live?" 

"Of course she visited her relatives. She packed her 
trunk, got on the train, and went to Indiana for weeks at a time," 
she said. 

"Where did she go in Indiana?" I asked. 

"I don't know. She came from a very large family and she 
visited from one house to another." 

Do you know how many railroad lines there were in 
Indiana after the Civil War? 

By that time I had learned a little more about searching, 
so I started, county by county, along the major railroads that 
went into Central Illinois. And one day, in a letter about some 
other records to a county nowhere near a railroad, on a whim I 
added a P.S.: "Do you have a marriage record of Willis Fulp?" 

I will never forget the day I got the answer to my letter. 
It was on a single sheet of paper. I was almost too discouraged 
to look at it. But with that single sheet of paper, I had found the 
long lost marriage record in Madison County, Indiana. And 
that wonderful clerk had pencilled on it the name and address 



of a local researcher. This researcher turned up Elizabeth's 
large family ( parents, five brothers, and five sisters > p aming all 
the members and giving their story back to North Carolina. The 
ultimate reward was that a record was found of the purchase of 
land in Clay County, Illinois, by Willis and Elizabeth Fulp. At 
last I was getting somewhere. So back to my mother. 

"If they owned land in Illinois, why did Elizabeth live 
with your family so many years?" I asked. "I realize that her 
daughter, Lydia, was ill for a long time and needed help (Mother 
would not say tuberculosis), but didn't Elizabeth's husband 
object to this long stay?" 

Imagine my shock at the age of fifty to learn for the first 
time that, after Elizabeth married Armstrong, they had a 
violent argument over the farm she had inherited from Willis. 
Armstrong wanted to sell and she didn't. So, he shot her. 

Fortunately, Elizabeth was hit only in the shoulder and 
she recovered. So, in 1883, she went to live with her daughter, 
Lydia. Divorce was unacceptable and Elizabeth and Armstrong 
lived separately for thirty-four years until her death in 1917. 
He was still living then. 

Realizing that I would get no more information from 
Mother, I wrote for the court records of the case. Sure enough, 
"He did pick up a revolver and with malicious intent to murder 
did shoot her." Off to the penitentiary for Armstrong. 

Since Elizabeth remarried in 1875, this put Willis's 
death between 1860 and 1874. Efforts now turned to finding 
that farm in Clay County. 

Finally getting disgusted with my moaning and groan- 
ing about my problem. Mother said, "I'll make a suggestion. If 
you'll drive me down to Clay County I'll write all my cousins and 
suggest a reunion of those of us that used to have such fun at 
week-long houseparties in the early 1900s. Maybe some of them 
will know something." 

I'd heard about these cousins all my life, so I agreed. I 
also knew that my mother dearly loved to go in the car for 



215 



several days and stay in nice motels. The reunion was planned 
and finally held in 1973 near Clay County. 

Those elderly cousins had a wonderful time. I was 
allowed to drive the car for them, to cook, and do dishes. And 
listen. At last one cousin told me she knew a court clerk who 
might be able to translate the Indiana land description. We 
started out with vague directions that would "put you in the 
general area-and there's an old man out there who might help 
you." 

Some miles out in the country we found the old man. 
What good luck! He turned out to be a genealogical researcher. 
He recognized the property and offered to go with us to find it. 
Sort of incidentally along the way, he suggested we stop at a 
little roadside cemetery. We found only a few graves in about 
an acre and a half of land. But-more luck-among them were the 
graves of Willis Fulp and two of his daughters! 

Old stones had been turned over and were covered with 
dirt, but they gave names, birth, and death dates. We cleaned 
the stones and leaned them against the fence and took pictures 
for a permanent record. And there at last I learned the date of 
Willis Fulp's death. I had found the end I'd been looking for. 
There was no death record, but there was a gravestone. 

Worth more than the facts unearthed, though, were the 
real benefits of this search-finding how interesting my ances- 
tors were. And I learned that visiting with older people and 
letting them talk casually would tell me more than I ever 
learned by direct questioning. My mother really didn't give me 
a lot of facts, but she did give me many valuable clues. 

Genealogically, the Fulp line turned out to be my entry 
to membership in the DAR. And one of the important proofs 
accepted in my DAR application was the picture of WUlis Fulp's 
gravestone. 



MY THOUGHTS ON MEMORIAL DAY 

Phyllis Wells Pincombe 

It's Memorial Day, and here I am at the cemetery. It 
seems funny not having Mom here. Well, in a way she is here. 
Mom died last fall. 

As far back as I can remember. Mom and I have always 
decorated the family graves on Memorial Day. Six generations 
ofour family lie buried here, in this quiet little cemetery outside 
of a quiet little town, Ridott, Illinois. 

I once said I could remember going to my great- 
grandfather's funeral because I could remember the flag on the 
casket, but Mom said, "That was your other great-grandpa. He 
was a Civil War veteran, but he isn't buried here." She was 
right, too, because the headstone here says that Benjamin 
Boyer died in 1906, and that was eleven years before I was born. 

Let's see now. The pink geranium goes on Grandma's 
grave. Mom always bought a pink geranium for Grandma's 
grave. Come to think of it, I wonder why she always called it 
"Grandma's grave." Grandpa is right there beside her. "Wil- 
liam and Dena Boyer," the gravestone says. Perhaps Grandma 
loved pink geraniums. 

Now I must go down to the other end of the cemetery to 
my parents' lot. My father, Harry Wells, died of a heart attack 
at the age of forty -four. Somehow I always felt that it was really 
the Depression that killed him. He was the sort of person who 
loved to give gifts and pick up tabs, and when his business caved 
in, he just sort of caved in with it. 

My mother, Susan Boyer Wells, was a widow for forty- 
three years. She always said that there just wasn't anyone quite 
like my father. She never considered remarrying. 

This stone says "Baby." Actually there are two babies on 
our lot. The first. Baby Jack, is the brother I never knew. He 
died two years before I was bom. I used to wonder why my 
mother made such a fuss over a nine-month old baby. He had 



not been old enough to talk or exchange ideas. Mom and I went 
to the cemetery every year and always visited Baby Jack's 
grave, but I couldn't understand what he meant to her. 

The other baby is my tiny granddaughter, Richelle 
Rosetta. She had black curly hair and a husky looking little 
body, but looks were deceiving. In her third day, for no apparent 
reason, she suddenly stopped breathing and died. Now, like 
Mom, I understand. 

My daughter was unable to attend her baby's funeral as 
she herself was in the hospital for breathing difficulties. When 
I reported the funeral proceedings to her, her only words were, 
"Mama, I never even got to hold her." 

Two days later the doctor told her that she only had a 
short time to live. The cancer that had attacked her arm a year 
and a half before had broken out again in her liver. She lived 
just four more weeks. Now she's here. 

Altogether six generations of my family lie here in the 
Ridott Cemetery. Most of them live in my memory. One day I 
shall join them, but then, who will remember? 



MY VISIT TO FORD'S THEATRE 

William E. Thomson 

Many years ago as a very young boy I attended the 
dedication of "The Lincoln Memorial" in Oak Ridge Cemetery in 
Springfield, Illinois, with my family and grandfather. Sitting 
next to him as I usually was, I remember him telling me that 
some months before an attempt had been made to steal the body 
of Lincoln. And later, when the casket was moved from the 
hillside crypt to the permanent interment in the base of the 
monument, the casket had been opened to make sure the body 
was still there. He mentioned, too, that a man he knew from 



Galesburg had viewed the body, and that after all these years 
there was only a little spot of mold on the collar of his suit- 
otherwise the body itself was perfectly preserved. 

The dedication ceremonies, vvdth the somber addresses 
made that day by Governor Emerson and the President of the 
United States, Herbert Hoover, and others, reflecting the past 
and eulogizing this great man, made an impression on me that 
I wouldn't soon forget. It was about this time that I became 
intrigued not so much with the many aspects leading to the 
assassination, but the place where it happened. 

It was several years later, after a successful run on 
Broadway in the hit comedy, "Janie," that I was in Washington 
for the first time appearing in the touring company. It was 
through stage hands, I recall, that I learned Ford's Theatre still 
existed in its original state: It was the place of the assassina- 
tion, and for all these years it had been closed to the public. 

After participating in an early morning radio talk show, 
I hailed a cab and set out on what turned out be quite an 
adventure. After depositing me at the curb across the street 
from Ford's Theatre, I remember watching the cab as it rounded 
a corner and disappeared from sight. It was then that I noticed 
how quiet it was in this what seemed a very remote part of town. 
I realized at this early hour the town hadn't really come alive 
yet. It wouldn't have surprised me at all if a horse and buggy 
had galloped down that deserted street. At about that moment, 
I caught out of the corner of my eye what appeared to be 
movement of some kind behind the soiled glass of the double 
doors at the entrance of the theatre. This is impossible, I 
thought-what's going on over there-I must be seeing things. 
There it was again-as though a shadow passed over the door 
pane . After a minute or two I finally crossed the street and, with 
my kerchief, wiped some of the grime from one of the panes of 
glass in the door in order to look inside. As I did so, peering at 
me from the inside was the face of a white-haired old man about 
to open the door. Laughingly, he said, "No, I'm not a ghost." He 



said he had been watching me for some time and wondered what 
I was doing in this part of town at this early hour. I explained 
to him who I was, what I was doing in the city, and being a "farm 
boy" from Illinois, it seemed only natural that I should be 
interested in "Lincoln History." It was then that he mellowed, 
saying he too had been a farm boy from around the Kewanee 
area, and he had for many years been overseer of Ford's 
Theatre. I remember him saying that he hadn't been at the 
theatre for some time and that it was pure happenstance that 
he was there at all, especially at this time in the morning. He 
went on to say, "On the second thought, guess I must have come 
down just to let you in." He added that I was free to look around. 
Which I did. 

This was an opportunity of a lifetime. To step back in 
time some seventy-five years to a place undisturbed only by 
time. A chance to see it just as Lincoln might have seen it. To 
stand there before the stage as Lincoln must have done upon 
entering the theatre, greeting friends and dignitaries before the 
performance. To retrace his steps as he retired to the President's 
Box. It was the intimacy of this small theatre that impressed 
me, and how in this environment a tragedy such as this could 
ever have happened, puzzled me. Of course, this is a mystery 
that to this day isn't fully understood. 

Moving over to the stair-well leading to the President's 
Box, I could see that the door at the top was slightly ajar, thus 
giving me light to see the stairs. Brushing away the cobwebs, 
I climbed to the top. In the semi-darkness, not knowing what 
to expect, an eerie feeling came over me as I pushed open the 
door and stepped inside. To my amazement, the setting was 
pretty much as I expected. The rocking chair where the 
president sat when assassinated-still there, its back to the 
door. A straight chair offto the side. As I stood there collecting 
my thoughts, I found it not at all difficult in this doom and gloom 
atmosphere to envision the incredible senseless act that took 
place here in the confines of this small place. With a little 



stretch of one's imagination, one could almost hear the shot that 
killed the President and smell the stench of gun powder as 
Booth set about to play his final roll as he leaped out of the 
shadows past the President slumped in his chair-brushing 
aside the hysterical Mrs. Lincoln as he vaulted over the box 
rail-catching a spur in the flag-thus throwing himself off 
balance and breaking his leg as he hit the stage floor below. 

As I was about to leave the theatre, the overseer called 
to me from inside the ticket office, saying he had something to 
show me before I left. Standing in the doorway, I could see that 
he had removed a small box from the safe located in the corner 
of this small room. Lifting the lid, he folded back a piece of cloth, 
soiled with age. As he did so, he handed the box to me. Taking 
the box and looking inside I could see it contained two articles. 
One was a small Daringer-type pistol, but it was the other piece 
that caught my attention. A sliver of bone. As I turned the piece 
over, withered skin and a few strands of dark hair were clearly 
visible. As I recall, it seemed that I was immediately aware of 
what it was. For just an instant there it seemed I could see the 
whole man. "The rail splitter," "The circuit rider," "The Presi- 
dent," "Four score and seven years ago"-all flashed through my 
mind. I was speechless and probably visibly shaken. During 
this time, I could faintly hear-very distantly-the old man 
rambling on: "Yes, it's the weapon that killed the President and 
probably the most untalked about fragment of American his- 
tory in existence. A piece of bone from Lincoln's skull was left 
behind-later found beside the rocking chair where he sat when 
shot. You'll be able to tell your grandkids you've held a piece of 
Lincoln in your hand. Nobody will believe you, but it'll be true. 
Still, to this day, most people who know about it won't accept the 
fact that it exists. Won't admit what's in that box. Don't want 
to know. I keep it hidden. No denying it-it's all right there in 
the box. A lot of history. What's the matter boy-you all right? 
Maybe a little fresh air would do you good." 




L^ist ofcAuthors 



LIST OF AUTHORS 

Tales from Two Rivers V is comprised of manuscripts selected from Tales from Two Rivers writing contests VIII, IX, and X. 
The following is a listing of all authors who submitted stories to these writing contests. Their manuscripts are part of the Tales 
from Two Rivers collection at the Western Illinois University Library. 



Adams 

Bloom, Kathryn 
Dodson, Madge Bates 
Ehrhardt, Florence 
Greenleaf, Violet 
Jones, Jr., John A. 
Klarner, Elizabeth 
Gitker, Lillian 
Reinebach, Ruth 
Reynolds, Margaret Kelley 
Ruddell, Sara J. 
Seger, Mildred M. 
Shelton, Helen Shepherd 
Stowell, Arthur Francis 
Turner, Helen 
Waite, Truman 

Brown 

Miller, Wilma 
Roe, Nellie 

Bureau 

Bennett, Jane 
Norris, Donald 
Philpott, Glenn 

Calhoun 

Carpenter, George W. 
Navarre, Olive 



Cass 

Bley, Arline 
Kirchner, Janette 
Leverton, Beulah 
Smith, Helen Sherrill 
Smith, Thelma 

Christian 

Becchelli, Anna 
Trapp, Alice 

Clinton 

Goodwin, Catherine 

Cook 

Harper, Milton 
Rockett, Ferna 

Dekalb 

Prall, Ivan E. 

Edgar 

Strew, Rosemary 

Effingham 

Shadwell, Nelle E. 

Fayette 

Hinshaw, Virgil 



Fulton 

Beaird, F. D. 
Bowman, Mabel 
Cattron, Augusta Kuehn 
Cook, LaVern E. 
Efnor, Louise E. 
Freeman, Donald 
Hansberger, L. E. 
Helle, Joseph A. 
Henry, Vera 
Hickerson, Margaret 
Lafferty, Mahal a 
Livers, Hazel 
Myers, Helen 
Reihm, Joan 
Thomson, Esmarelda T. 
Thomson, William E. 
Workman, Garnet 
Yurkovich, Eleaner 

Greene 

Chapman, Floy K. 
Chapman, Mrs. Floy 
Hardwick, Betty L. 
Kassing, Shirley A. 
Stout, Viola 



222 



Hancock 

Boston, Lydia Jo 
Braun, Florence 
Deener, Ellen 
Emery, Mattie 
Grigsby, C. O. 
Howard, Dorothy M. 
Junk, Lucille 
McClintock, Elden L. 
McCutchan, Ruth 
Muschalek, Sister Clare 
Schafer, Grace B. 
Smith, Lois H. 
Tinch, Irene B. 
Wait, Myron 
Wells, Dorris E. 
Whitehead, Imogene 

Henderson 

Brown, Dorothy L. 
Dixon, Willis 
Gibb, Irene 
Kane, Mrs. John 
Milligan, Louise Gibb 
Perry, Faye 

Henry 

DeDecker, Margaret M. 
Hapner, Eve Hodgson 
Magerkirth, Charlotte E. 
Nash, Marilyn Hade 
Nelson, Helen Olson 
Rasmussen, Marvis 
Richards, Sr., Robert C. 



Jackson 

Kupel, Claudia W. 

Jersey 

Bohannon, Audrey 

Chappell, Lorraine 

Cravens, Katherine Nola Thorntor 

Fester, Maurita 

Freesmeyer, Marie 

Strunk, Elma 

Van Meter, Dorothy 

Kendall 

Ketcham, Charlene 

Knox 

Beaty, Eileen Cadwalader 
Callopy, Mary Moore 
Hawkinson, Maxine 
Mangieri, Joe 
Nash, Glenrose 
Owrey, Delores 
Simms, Louise Parker 
Stuckey, Katherine 

Lake 

Mogg, Ruth Drummond 

Lasalle 

Burns, Robert Taylor 
Thompson, Marguerite 

Lee 

Peterson, Lillian 
Weitzel, Wilbert 



Linn 

Taylor, Ruth Gash 

Logan 

Poppleton, Roy 

Macoupin 

Ballinger, Lucille 

Madison 

Koelling, Dorothy Boll 

Maricopa 

Brasel, Kenneth R. 

Marion 

Currie, F. Mary 

Marshall 

Bussell, Eleanor H. 
Kuhn, Grayce 

Mason 

Powers, HoUis Sheldon 
Sauer, Twyla 
Walker, Lucille J. 

Massac 

Green, Beulah 

McDonough 

Applegate, Francis 
Bricker, Harriet 
Campbell, Effie L. 
Cheek, Doris 



223 



Combites, Lillian Nelson 
Cordell, Harriet Wetzel 
Dark, Nina Sullivan 
Foster, Pearl Jackson 
Graham, Burdette 
Graham, Martha K. 
Green, Eleanor 
Halliburton, Basil 
Harper, Veta M. 
Keithley, Alvin L. 
Keithley, Hazel 
Keithley, Teckla 
Krauser, Alice 
Little, Robert 
Meriwether, Fern 
Morley, Juanita 
Rogers, Ruth 
Stevens, Mary Cecile 
Walraven, Ruby 
Welch, Marie 
Willey, Esther 
Wilson, Pearl 

McLean 

Baltz, Wilson M. 
Hancock, Fern Moate 
Miller, Ailene 
Miller, Leo 
Paddock, Joseph 
Scaife, Marjorie J. 

Mercer 

Brown, Dorothy G. 
Kiddoo, Elizabeth 
Speer, Veta Bloomer 



Monroe 

Hartman, Al 
Hartman, Emil 
Spytek, Sue 

Morgan 

Bridgman, Ruby H. 
Brown, Mary L 
Fenton, Phyllis T. 
Fitch, Grace 
Powell, Milton A. 
Sievers, Mrs. Glenn 
Simmons, Ida Harper 
Suttles, Elizajane Bates 

Moultrie 

Kirkwood, Bill 

Muscatine 

Brei, Irene 
Harris, Elizabeth 

Nolan 

Hedgcock, Everett 

Ogle 

Van Briesen, Armour F. 

Peoria 

Adams, Joseph B. Jr. 
Athen, Joan F. 
Burroughs, Chuck 
Childers, Guillard O. 
Conlan, Mary J. 
Herron, Carmen Razo 



Kohrs, Walter E. 
Lamb, Glenna 
Lynn, Jean Geddes 
Norton, Mildred 
Placher, Louise 
Pope, June 
Russell, B. M. 
Sperling, Edwardine 

Piatt 

Walker, Mrs. Guyneth 

Pike 

Brim, Genevieve Dorsey 
Chandler, Etta 
Cockrum, Margaret L. 
Dunmire, Joy 
Hannant, Owen 
Hanson, Helen 
Swartz, Merl 

Pope 

Watson, Eva Baker 

Randolph 

Rittenhouse, Anna 

Rock Island 

Barber, Betty 
Chatterton, June Speer 
Chatterton, Keith 
Chilberg, Doris L. 
Fetes, Genevieve 
Findlay, Junetta 



224 



Huber, Jean Courtney 
Johnson, Lina Fink 
Jordan, Robert D. 
Lashbrook, Mrs. Blondelle 
Nash, Dorris Taylor 
Nesseler, Bernard 
Pearson, Ruth E. 
Pierce, Anne C. 
Rowe, Eleanor R. 
Sabath, Rose Fox 
Seward, Sidney Jeanne 
Singleton, John 
Vennet, Irene Vander 
Witter, Evelyn 

Sangamon 

Busch, Ora 
Cawley, Opal Cora 
Hammond, Jo 
Hart, George S. 
Kish, Ruby Davenport 
Kotner, Vivian Barton 
Mathis, Irma 
Oblinger, Josephine K. 
Rilling, Helen E. 
Rowe, Max L. 
Schneider, Virginia 
Stanfield, Wilmogene 
Taylor, Gloria L. 
Tefertillar, Robert L. 
Thorn, Richard 
Welhelm, Telma 
Workman, Vivian 



Schuyler 

Baker, Larry 
Bartlow, William P. 
DeWitt, Mary K. 
Peters, Iva 
Prather, Virginia 
Terry, Lillian 
Turner, Nell Dace 

Scott 

Duncan, Mrs. Orin 
Hutchings, Stella Howard 
Vortman, Nina Krusa 

St. Clair 

Greco, Eileen 
Hall, Clarence G. 
Heller, Dorothy A. 
Miller, Lillian D. 
Niemann, Vera 
Rhodes, Virginia Roy 
Schmidt, Elsa E. 
Welch, Grace R. 

Shelby 

Harless, Helen C. 
Knecht, Beulah 

Tazewell 

Eaton, Ralph 
Huebach, Mary Rogers 
Marek, Eulalia 
Smith, Laston 
Stormer, Mary C. 
Valentine, Lucius 



Warren 

Bertelsen, Mary 
Breeding, Grace Runkel 
Costello, Carmen 
Fitch, Mary 
Frank, Hazel Denum 
Hill, Marguerite C. 
Inman, Lyman 
Miller, Anna 
White, Mrs. Omega 

Whiteside 

Florence, Jennie 
Harris, Clarice Stafford 

Williamson 

Ashley-Runkle, Audrey 

Winnebago 

Lorimer, Signa 
Pincombe, Phyllis Wells 

Out of State 

Brownlee, Robert L. (Florida) 
Colegrove, L. L. (California) 
Danielson, Ernest (Iowa) 
Heino, Doris (Wyoming) 
Jackson, James B. (Florida) 
Selters, Beula M. (Texas) 
Van Etten, Louise Barclay (Ohio) 



"The Roaring Twenties for me was a great time. There were 
new freedoms, great music, exciting dances, and happy times with 
friends. I still enjoy the music and dancing. Everyone was 
optimistic about the future. We thought our country was the 
greatest and was going on to bigger and better things. The 
stockmarket crash of 1929 put an end to those dreams for some 
time. The Roaring Twenties were over. " 

My Recollection of the Roaring Twenties 
Madge Bates Dodson 



"Caught up in the gold fever, he made the trip when he was 
forty-nine years old. He panned gold for a time, hauled supplies 
to the miners for a while, and then set up a store where he did quite 
well for a few years until he was murdered in 1855. " 

Letter of a Forty- Niner 
Owen Hannant 

"This has been a week long to be remembered at Normal. On 
Wednesday morning the funeral train bearing the remains of our 
lamented President passed through our little village on the way 
to its final resting place. The station house was draped in 
mourning and there were several appropriate mottoes. They 
raised an arch over the track. It was all wreathed with cedar and 
white plumb blossoms and across it was the motto Go to thy rest. " 
Abe Lincoln's Body Comes Home 
Jean Geddes Lynn 

"I had applied for a position at Maple Grove, northeast of 
Carlock. I was granted an interview with the three members of the 
school board. A ninety dollar salary per month to conduct an 
eight-month term was agreed upon. We shook hands on the 
agreement. I was asked to attend church at least two Sundays 
each month, to which I readily agreed. " 

The Old One-Room Country School 
Fern Moate Hancock 



"There was an announcing blare of trumpets, and the 
celebrated band marched onto the stage and took their places in 
fine military order. In navy blue dress uniforms, their band 
instruments shining, they were a sight to behold. Then up the 
steps to the platform came the world-famous bandmaster, the 
March King. The cheers were deafening. " 

The March King Comes to Monmouth 
Martha K Graham 

"Asliverofa moon gave little light as B. E. waitedin thedark 
for the motorboat to dock. Finally, it came in and black-shirted, 
mean-looking men helped Capone up onto the planking as the 
wave washed in and rocked the floating dock. Then one of 
Capone's men shined a flashlight on B. E.'s grim face and his 
huge form. " 

When Sheriff Cook Confronted Al Capone 
LaVern E. Cook 

"More than half a century has passed since that fateful day 
with no recurrence of such a fierce storm in Rushville, but those 
who were around to experience those days will recall the help of 
neighbors and friends during the reconstruction that followed. 
Despite the savage wind, Rushville became a bigger and better 
community." 

The Rushville Tornado 
William P. Bartlow 

"Moving over to the stair-well leading to the President's Box, 
I could see that the door at the top was slightly ajar, thus giving 
me light to see the stairs. Brushing away the cobwebs, I climbed 
to the top. In the semi-darkness, not knowing what to expect, an 
eene feeling came over me as I pushed open the door and stepped 
inside. To my amazement, the setting was pretty much as I 
expected. The rocking chair where the president sat when 
assassinated-still there, its back to the door. " 

My Visit to Ford's Theatre 
William E. Thomson