Remembering Christmas traditions of 1957

Farm Journal 1957

The holidays have always been about tradition. My Webster’s Third College Edition gives one definition of the word tradition as “… a long-established custom or practice that has the effect of an unwritten law..”

Well, I don’t know about an “unwritten law,” but I looked back at the past two or three year-end Rusty Iron columns and they all were based on old Farm Journal magazines. So, I’ll continue the “tradition” with a look at the December, 1957 issue of the popular farm magazine.

Farm Journal magazine, December 1957

Ike was President and the Korean War had been over four years, but the “Cold War” was in full swing and nervous folks were building nuclear bomb shelters in their backyards.

The “Farmcast for the East” advised: “Milk prices will stay above year-ago levels.” and “It will be a little easier (for dairy farmers) to make money this winter.”

Egg prices would be steady, prospects for high-quality apples were good, and hay prices should move up. They advised readers to “Buy corn now,” “Hang onto any good wheat you still have,” and “Plan to sell oats in the next 30-45 days.”

The Soviet Union had just launched the successful Sputnik satellite and as a result, “Any chances for an income tax cut went glimmering.”

Eating fats

Editor Wheeler McMillen asked in a column: “What would happen if all our consumers became frightened at eating fats?” That cholesterol contributes to heart problems was just beginning to be publicized, and butter, eggs, fat meat and milk were said to be the culprits.

McMillen went on to say: “Should the case against fats in the diet ever be proven … the ‘prime’ steer and fat hog will no longer be wanted. The grain market will decline.

Farmers will have to work harder than ever to develop other uses for (the crops) that fatten animals.”

The new 1958 Ford Powermaster and Workmaster tractors were introduced, as well as the “Powerful New Dynamic D-17,” the latest Allis-Chalmers tractor shown pulling a five-bottom semi-mounted plow.

The Deere ad featured “BIG Earning Power” from the John Deere 420C crawler “On the farm” and “In the woods.” In the “Machinery Parade” section, the “New 3-4 plow ’65’ tractor” was announced from the brand new Massey-Ferguson Co.

The 1958 automobiles starred in Farm Journal’s “Own Automobile Show,” and featured such long-gone marques as Oldsmobile, De Soto, Studebaker, Plymouth, Rambler, and the brand new for 1958 offering from Ford, the Edsel.

The hot new styling feature was dual headlights on all models, while optional air suspension was available on Ford and GM cars. A full-page ad for Florida orange juice featured Gertrude “Gorgeous Gussie” Moran, the tennis star who had scandalized staid Wimbledon in 1949 by competing in a short skirt with ruffled, lace “knickers” peeping out from beneath.

Western Auto Stores ran a two-page ad featuring kid’s gifts. For little girls, there was a doll carriage for $4.98, a “realistic” electric iron at $2.88, and a Betsey McCall make-up kit, so the little beauty could “make-up like mommy.”

Boys could ask Santa for a “fancy double holster set,” with two “Stallion 22 pistols.” There were a steel pickup truck and 2-wheeled trailer for $4.98, complete with “seven popular vinyl farm animals.”

Any child would have been happy to get a “Chest full of games” for $1.98, or a Gilbert microscope set that would set Santa back the handsome sum of $10.95.

Husbands were urged to get their wives “A present with a future,” the new Singer Slant-O-Matic” sewing machine, or a ’58 Frigidaire electric range with “Spatter-free broiling.” For hubby, the IRHA family of hardware stores offered a Remington pump shotgun for $85.95, or a Sunbeam electric jigsaw for $45.

Other ads included Bufferin for headaches, Homelite chainsaws, Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco and Lucky Strike cigarettes (“Give Luckies, Serve Luckies, Enjoy Luckies”), RCA Victor TV sets, Weed tire chains, Dr. Hess Pen-FZ for mastitis in cows, Beacon Feeds, and Silver Floss canned sauerkraut.

Paper decorations

“The Farmer’s Wife” section of the magazine featured how to make paper decorations, lots of holiday recipes, and a tear-jerking Christmas story.

“Up In Polly’s Room” instructed teen-aged girls how to plan and throw a holiday party. Maxine, from Nevada, asked Polly what to do because her boyfriend wouldn’t kiss her. She thought it was because she was taller than he, and “it would be awkward.” Polly advised her to “Stand on a lower step.”

An “aged owner” advertised a 320-acre farm, complete with four cows, three calves, a new hay rake and harrow, and a wagon and grain drill for $9,750. This was approximately the same time that I bought my first house, an old two-bedroom on a 50-by-150-foot town lot for $9,500. What a fool I was!

On the “Passed by the Non-Sensor” page was the following gem:

MOM — But the salesman said that toy was unbreakable.

POP — What he meant was that Junior could use it to break everything else in the house.

To me, the best feature in Farm Journal was the following.

“Now is the Time to:

  • Shop.
  • Hunt ducks.
  • Go caroling.
  • Write to Santa.
  • Mail gifts early.
  • Check tree lights.
  • Frame baby’s picture.
  • Cut some fence posts.
  • Read Matthew 5: 1-12.
  • Show Shorty how to trap.
  • Keep battling mice and rats.
  • Check hogs for lice and mange.
  • Have ’em gift-wrap a new clothes dryer for Mom.
  • Give the pony an extra double handful of oats for Christmas.
  • Ask the mailman if he could use a basket of crisp, red Jonathans.
  • Remember to send a Christmas letter to your Air Force nephew in Alaska.
  • Take Mom and Aunt Mary and drive south until you feel the urge to peel off the coat.”

I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas and that 2018 will be a good year for everyone.


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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.



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