Looking back on the Canfield Fair


Getting ready for Canfield Fair was always a rite of passage in bygone days, and it was surely less complicated then than it is today. Certainly there was no traffic problem and you could even ride your pony or horse there if you lived within a reasonable distance.
Those of us of a certain age – we’re way beyond being baby boomers – tend to think fondly of how everything used to be so much more fun, commercialism was minimal, and everybody was always sweetness and light. And those of us who write about those glory days have to keep the truth in mind.
Surely no one then would have ever thought of tampering with any of the livestock, their own or another’s, or purposely omitting an ingredient in the recipe of a blue-ribbon cake or pocketing someone’s prize-winning picture or pet.
But I do remember the homemade booklet my mother and I put together about my Crested White Pekin pet ducks I took to the fair in the early 1930s – Poultry Hall was then where the pumpkins and gourds are now exhibited – had disappeared before the end of the three-day run.
Mother was furious but I was just glad nothing had happened to my dear ducks! As I recall, my pen of three did receive a blue ribbon.
In 1934, I went to the fair with a friend, Janet Miller, whose mother had written a memorable book, White Saddle, about a Shetland pony I personally knew and worshipped.
I still have the autographed book and a souvenir card picturing the author, Ethel Hull Miller, with White Saddle and her foal, Golden Laddie. The cards were with the compliments of the Strouss-Hershberg photo studio.
Since the 2007 fair is now under way, the selection of a topic for this column had to be something appropriate, and I have put aside for a later date the column about the World War I letters from Kenneth Thompson, my mother’s youngest brother who was killed in that war and was East Liverpool’s and Columbiana County’s first casualty.
I have read them all and other pertinent material, which had been painstakingly saved by his parents, my grandparents, my parents and finally my sister. I have been haunted ever since, even though I never knew him.
So let’s take a look at Eight Hundred Receipts (sic) Worth Their Weight in Gold by H.F. Hagy and published in 1909 by the Royal Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, Pa.
The “receipts” aren’t all for cooking but include household tips, for tanning, foundry and machine shop receipts and diseases of the horse, cattle, sheep, swine and poultry.
If your horse develops colic at the fair today, there are wonderful veterinarians to attend him. Back then, you were your own veterinarian, and you would dose him with 1 pint of castor oil, 1 ounce of laudanum and 1 ounce of oil of pimento mixed in 1 pint of warm ginger tea.
If he lived through the treatment, no doubt he’d recover.
Perhaps Rules for Selecting a Good Milch (sic) Cow haven’t changed all that much in 98 years: her head should be rather long and small, cheeks thin, muzzle fine, nostrils large and flexible, eyes mild, clear and large, neck rather long and slim near the head, back level and broad and straight to the rump, large teats, and empty bag lean, soft and long with large milking veins.
For cow colic? Take 2 quarts of warm water, add 1 ounce of ginger, 1 gill (5 fluid ounces) of rye whiskey, half-pint of molasses or half-pound coarse brown sugar. No doubt the rye whiskey makes Bossie feel better immediately!
To protect sheep and lambs from dogs, foxes and wolves, take equal parts of sulfur and tar, adding a small quantity of powdered aloes, and smear their necks and legs once a month through the summer. This is said to be a positive means at keeping these “pets” at a distance.
To remedy a hog’s sore throat, take a teacup full of molasses, half a teacup full of vinegar, a tablespoon full of melted butter, and a teaspoon of black pepper. Feed for two days with fresh clover or potatoes and turnips.
Who holds the hog while getting the brew down its throat?
Such a fascinating little book, which is in fragile condition. It came to me via a dear friend who frequents flea markets and garage sales and delights in finding gems like this to share with me.
He also is becoming an amateur archaeologist and shows me some of the treasures he finds in our area.
Perhaps you’re at home reading this or perhaps sitting on a bench at the fairgrounds or maybe resting in the grandstand as you munch on whatever fair food you choose – and heaven knows there is a variety to choose from.
But don’t forget this is still an agricultural fair and there is much to see under that heading. Our choices are always the livestock, the crops, the domestic arts, the Granges and the 4-H and school displays.
Most of all, enjoy the fair!
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Quick note: on Aug. 12, I watched as one at a time, four baby wrens cautiously found their wings, and the barn is singularly silent as of Aug. 20 when the last baby swallows took to the air.


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A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.