What farmers, families were reading 60 years ago

I was just looking through the January 1950 issue of Farm Journal magazine (cover price: 20 cents), and here’s what farmers and their wives and kids were reading 60 years ago.

“Farm labor costs are coming down and efficiency is going up. Smart farm hands will hang onto good jobs. Hogs will make money for another nine months. Top cattle prices will drop as usual at this time of year. Buy seed and fertilizer now for next spring. Order turkey poults and baby chicks early. Sheep will payoff over the long pull. Make a budget and balance it with expected income; maybe the government can get away with deficit financing — but you can’t.

“As to foreign affairs, Washington is hopeful, as usual. The cold war is proceeding. It’s expensive, but we seem to be losing no ground. West Germany is steadily reviving. In China, the outlook is bad and getting worse. The Communists are at the frontier of French Indo-China, and if the USA keeps from getting involved in the mess we may consider ourselves lucky.”

New farm machinery

New farm machinery for 1950 included the Oliver Model 8 automatic wire-tie pick up baler, an optional hydraulic header lift for the Allis-Chalmers Allcrop harvester, a Ferguson 3-point, PTO driven, six bar side delivery rake, and the big, 2-cylinder diesel John Deere Model R.

Case introduced their “Eagle Hitch” on the VAC tractor, Minneapolis-Moline the self-propelled “Harvestor” that could be fitted to mount a corn picker, combine or forage harvester and International Harvester the Farmall HV high-clearance tractor.

There were articles on the advantages of feeding “low-grade spuds” to beef and dairy cattle, hogs and sheep, as well as how to cull chickens “like the experts do.”

Controversy

There was controversy about government price supports then, as now. The 1949 “Brannan Plan” had just been put into place which supported prices at various percentages of “parity,” depending upon the surplus of that particular product.

A letter from an Idaho farmer read, in part: “Rip out all the price supports, go back to supply and demand, let prices level off as they will; take the surplus and give it to the starving.”

The National Grange condemned the plan, saying it ” … would boost production costs and taxes, lower living standards, and place the farmer at the mercy of political hand-outs.”

Advertisers

Advertisers included Allis-Chalmers (Roto-Baler), Caterpillar (D4 crawler tractor), Lava soap, Colgate toothpaste, Chesterfield cigarettes, Case (V AC tractor with Eagle Hitch), Gaines dog foods, Farmall tractors, Studebaker and Dodge trucks, Willys Jeep, Pontiac and Plymouth cars, Goodyear and B.F. Goodrich tractor tires, Martin steel silos, Weed tire chains and Jamesway poultry waterers.

In The Farmer’s Wife half of the magazine was advice on — gasp! — “turning 40 in ’50.” It said, “Your eyesight may get dimmer, but your insight should be keener. It’s fun to be forty, if you have the happiness habit.”

Those ladies would be 100 now!

There were articles on up-grading the lighting fixtures in the farm home, “After-Supper Fun” games for children, how to prepare and set up an easy, delicious New Year’s buffet supper and the perils to children of lead poisoning from paint in the home.

Poem

There was a cute little poem sent in by a reader titled: “Need Some Help?” The poem went: “The dishes are dried and the sink is clear — The silver’s nestling in its coffer. — Come, my dear, it’s time to hear — Your usual belated offer.”

There were ads for Crosley stoves and refrigerators, Carnation evaporated milk, Cannon towels, Calumet baking powder, Pillsbury pancake mix, Tide washing powder (a pretty young woman hugs a box of Tide and proclaims, “Tide’s Got What Women Want!”) and Kleencut scissors.

In Up in Polly’s Room, a girl asked if she should ask the boy in when he brought her home from a date. Polly’s advice: “It’s polite, if it’s not too late.”

Movies

Movies reviewed were The Heiress starring Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift; That Forsyte Woman with Greer Garson, Errol Flynn and Walter Pigeon; Holiday Affair with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh and The Great Lover with Bob Hope and Rhonda Fleming (Rhonda Fleming was one of my favorite actresses when I was a teenager — I thought she was beautiful).

There were 10 pages filled with ads for every kind of baby chick you could imagine, including ducklings, turkey poults and even squab, as well as Hampshire hogs, chinchilla rabbits and hamsters.

On the Passed by the Non-Sensor page were the following gems:

Young Mother — “Why so gloomy?”

Young Father — “I was thinking. Here we spend a year trying to get the baby to talk, and the next twenty trying to get her to shut up.”

And: MacPherson — “The fare to the station is $1.50 and you take my luggage free?”

Cabbie — “That’s correct, sir.”

MacPherson — “Very good, you take the luggage and I’ll walk.”

Advised farmers

The January of 1950, Now Is The Time To feature advised farmers thus:

Resolve.

Saw wood.

Hunt rabbits.

Pay the taxes.

Read Joshua I.

Prune apple trees.

Read seed catalogs.

Overhaul the tractor.

Brag on your mail man.

Start graining bred ewes.

Order seed and fertilizer.

Build electric pig brooders.

Buy a new license for Rover.

Shake snow off the evergreens.

Feed brood sows some legume hay.

Order new parts for worn machinery.

Dust sheep with rotenone; discourages ticks.

Keep the tank heater going; Bossy needs warm water.

Check fire insurance coverage on your farm buildings.

Pour ashes on icy spots in the feed lot; may save a broken leg.

Show Sis and her young man how you used to call square dances.

I’m sure I at least glanced through this issue of Farm Journal when it came to our house, but, of course, I don’t remember it, and probably didn’t look at much more than the machinery ads and the jokes (although I may have cast an eye upon the pretty girl in a two-piece bathing suit that graced a color ad for Florida orange juice).

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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