Magazine column shows how dating has changed

Not long ago I bought a bound volume of Successful Farming magazines from 1939 (the year I started first grade). Each issue contains a monthly letters column titled What do you think?, where readers sounded off about many subjects.

I reckon the following exchange in the columns could be called “Love on the farm.”

Starting in the February issue was this letter from a reader: “We have two young men in the family and, as it is as hard to find a decent girl as a needle in a haystack, they don’t marry. I used to advise them to marry a farm girl. They said, ‘Yes, they will bankrupt a man, too.’”

— Mrs. K., New York.

The editor added this challenge: “C’mon, you cornfield Amazons! Make these celibacy-inclined males regret their rashness. This column is thrown open to you for all the hair-pulling and shin-kicking that you wish to do.”

Response

April’s issue contained the “cornfield Amazon’s” outraged responses, as well as the editor’s question, “Why did we start this? Indignant young ladies have made our lives miserable ever since we published Mrs. K’s letter about her sons not being able to find a ‘decent’ girl.”

The letters began with: “I would like to find a good, honest, decent farm boy, but there isn’t such. I’m past 21 and haven’t seen one yet you could depend on. No, I’m not cross-eyed or knock-kneed. I’m five feet tall, have natural brown curly hair, and am considered by my friends as good-looking. I have cooked and sewed for the past 10 years … ”

— Miss D.E., Ill.

Then: “I am a wild-oated Iowan, but I do not wish to inflict more punishment upon your bachelor buttons or sweet Williams … Anyone who has that degree of superior complex does not deserve married bliss. Which would it be proper to send, my love or condolence, to these men?

— Mrs. K.B.L., Iowa.

Next: “I pride myself on my cooking, baking, keeping house, and so on … There, that’s me; am I perfect? Of course not. No girl can be perfect — nor can a boy…”

— Honeysuckle, Pa.

Another girl wrote: “Last summer I canned over 300 quarts of fruit and vegetables, raised 500 chicks, did most of the garden work, and took in all the community activities. I’m not bragging of myself, for I know lots of other girls who do the same. Don’t take me as being an old maid. I’m not … ”

— Miss Sunlight, Kan.

And finally: “Of course, I don’t want you to think me a brassy button of this modern age, but I would like to help.

“I’ve decided to form a club where all the girls will shower all their good points on two girls and perfect them into gentle, loving, hard-working, thrifty young women worthy of (these) two young men. Will you kindly send them up to Minnesota to look them over?

— Miss B., Minn.

The editor added: “We’ll co-operate with pleasure, Miss B.; but the boys had better step lively. Our only staff bachelor was last seen checking train schedules to Minnesota.”

The final letter in the series appeared in the June issue.

A young man wrote: “About this girl, Miss D.E. from Illinois, who wondered if there were any good, honest, decent farm boys: I am looking for a girl that will answer the same description.

“I’m 26 years old, five feet, seven inches tall, dark hair, brown eyes, light complected, and not so bad to look at.

“I am considered a good farmer in this neighborhood, and have never been in jail … So, Mr. Editor: If it is in your line of business to do things like this, please forward this to Miss D.E.”

— C.K., Ohio

The editor sums it all up by saying: “Well, so help us, we did it! We also passed on the letters of other superbly handsome, excessively wealthy, and otherwise desirable — if you would believe them — bachelors who besieged us with requests for the names and addresses of the young ladies whose letters we printed in our April issue. And the course of true love, a la Successful Farming, runs merrily on!”

Presumably, the editor was right; strangely, the population of the states from which these letters came didn’t take a dramatic downturn as a result of their young people not being successful in finding suitable mates.

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

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