Let’s Talk Rusty Iron: Taking a look at the life of a farmer 50 years ago

What were you doing 50 years ago? Our fathers and grandfathers, and maybe even we ourselves, were settling down after supper with the October issue of Farm Journal to find out what was going on in farming and the wider world. On the cover was a color photo of a wagonload of ear corn behind a Farmall tractor and an IH corn picker. Inside was word that “Crop forecasters were bug-eyed at Sept. 1 prospects.”

The 60-bushel-per-acre average corn yield forecast was “almost unbelievable — topped by an amazing yield of 76 bu. per acre in Illinois and 73 bu. in Iowa.”

Two hundred bushel corn was still far in the future. Also in the future was minimum till, although Iowa farmer Bob Garst asked, “Why plow and cultivate?” Garst showed off a sandy 80-acre field of healthy and weed-free corn, about which he said, “We planted May 15, and haven’t been back since — except to smile.”

Process

He first chiseled in nitrogen, then disked and at the same time applied an insecticide. When the seed was planted in 40-inch rows, liquid 8-24-8 fertilizer was applied. Right after planting, he harrowed and broadcast Atrazine. Yield was expected to be 90 bu. per acre.

In echoes of today, a Federal judge in New Mexico was soon to rule on the validity of a Labor Department ruling that boosted wages for Mexican Nationals hired as farm labor.

It seems that these laborers were required to be paid the same as local help, but the food, housing, etc. provided these Mexican workers wasn’t allowed to be figured as part of the wages. Farmers considered this unfair and had sought an injunction against the Labor Department rules.

Overproduction of poultry had depressed prices (broilers were bringing 11 cents a pound) to the point that a Congressional committee was holding hearings on the problem. Overproduction was also plaguing wheat and cotton growers, with beef producers being predicted as headed for the same problems.

In the Farmer’s Wife section was a story titled, “Every Home Needs a Rocking Chair,” apparently a result of President Kennedy famously acquiring a rocking chair for the White House.

Also featured was a Simplicity pattern from which four different dresses could be made, as well tips on how to care for gray hair. There were lots of recipes for chicken, vegetable dishes and festive cakes, as well as instructions for staging a cake walk. Pre-sifted flour and instant potatoes were big news and the ways in which they could be used were discussed.

“Slick Tricks” for farm women included the advice to make denim slipcovers in which to store extra table leaves and how to pad a high chair seat with foam rubber “to keep baby from sliding down in (the seat).”

Ladies were advised to “keep a perpetual grocery list (so) when your husband announces he’s going to town, the list is up to date.”

Marital advice

One woman wrote about how she handled her nagging husband. She told him that whenever he felt like scolding her, to kiss her instead. She added, “Gosh, for the next half hour he was kissing me every few minutes! It made him realize that he had been giving me a bad time. Since then we have both been more thoughtful and considerate.”

Ads included those for Winston and Marlboro cigarettes and Prince Albert and Revelation pipe mixtures, as well as Mossberg, Savage, Marlin and Ithaca firearms. Deere had a 2-page spread touting the Syncro-Range transmission on the New Generation tractors that had been introduced earlier that year.

Ford had a similar ad for the “Powerfully New Ford 6000″ tractor with Select-O-Speed. Texaco, Goodyear, Bell System, Purina and Pfizer all had full page ads for their products, while Gehl, Vise-Grip, d-CON, Liquid Wrench and Lincoln Welders ran smaller ads.

New York Life, State Farm, Prudential, Hartford and Equitable all tried to sell insurance, while there were small ads for backache, sore lips, pin worms and loose false teeth cures. For the ladies were ads for Nestle’s Chocolate, Tappan ranges, Heinz ketchup, Baker’s Coconut and Castoria laxative for children.

Advice

A girl wrote to Dear Polly, wondering why, even though she was attractive, a majorette, and dating the football team captain, no other boys asked her out. Polly suggested they might just be intimidated by the football captain.

Another girl bemoaned the fact that although she used deodorant “about every two days,” she still couldn’t stop perspiration and some odor. Polly, of course, advised not only the daily use of an antiperspirant deodorant, but daily bathing as well.

The classified section contained an ad for a 210-acre, scenic farm in Missouri, with a nearly new house, a barn, loafing shed, 170 acres of fenced pasture, 25 acres of cropland, a pond, springs and lots of fruit trees for “the amazing low price of $7,800!”

One could learn to play the guitar “in seven days or your money (only $2.98) back!” You could order 8- to 12-inch multiflora rose plants for $15 per 1000 to plant a “living fence.” Can you imagine actually paying to get the pesky stuff?

White Rock baby chicks were available at $6.50 per 100, while 100 assorted heavy breed chicks were $4.50.

Things to do

Under “Now is the time to” were these suggestions: Paint; fix gates; pay taxes; tell jokes; clean closets; dance the polka; go duck hunting; read Psalm 118:6; watch your weight; buy shotgun shells; burn the mortgage; enjoy autumn colors; fill up on apple pie; invest in a chain saw; repair storm windows; have your eyes examined; have a family portrait taken; have flapjacks for breakfast; admire Mom’s chrysanthemums; start planning a winter vacation; keep an eye on the cattle market; give Aunt Minnie slips from your best geraniums; take Shorty with you when you visit the stockyards.

On the ‘Passed by the Non-Sensor’ page were the following: Diner: “Do you have wild duck?” Waiter: “No sir, but we could irritate one of our tame ones for you.” And, Boy: “Josie, you’re the only girl I’ve ever loved.” Josie: “Just my luck. All I ever get is beginners.”

And that’s the way it was in 1961.

(Send suggestions, comments or questions to Sam Moore in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460-0038; or via e-mail to: editorial@farmanddairy.com.)

About the Author

Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules. More Stories by Sam Moore

Leave a Comment

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.

eNewsletter

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Recent News