Howard Lake Herald, September 14, 1998

It was scrimp and save back then

The following is the third of a four-part series based on Milla Klammer's journal written while growing up and living in the Howard Lake-Waverly area.

By Milla Klammer

We didn't move out to Erwin's farm right away. There was too much work to do in the house to make it livable, so we stayed with my folks awhile in town.

The house had six rooms - three upstairs and three down, but only four rooms were livable. The extra one upstairs was used for a store room and the one downstairs was handy for stove, wood, kerosene can, work clothes and many other things.

We put in a lot of work scraping the kalsomine off the walls and patching holes in plaster before we could paper ­ we papered everything. The walls were too bad to paint. There were no clothes closets or cupboards in the house ­ just the four walls in the rooms. Erwin had a small cupboard, three chairs, a table in the kitchen and an old iron cot in the dining room. Oh yes, there was a little closed-in porch built on the west side of the house, nothing fancy like nowadays. We kept our cream separator, wash machine and ice box there in summertime. In the winter, the cream separator and the washer were in the kitchen ­ no basement, just a small room called a cellar.

My mother and dad helped us get things ready to move in. My dad built a cupboard in the dining room for my good dishes and glassware. I am still using it. My folks bought us a beige enamel cookstove, a kitchen table and four chairs for the kitchen. Erwin had an old iron heater for the dining room, so we burned wood in both stoves. For the kitchen stove, you had to split the big chunks in small pieces to make a quicker fire, but for the heater, you could burn larger pieces like the ones in fireplaces now.

In the dining room, we had an old oak square table, an iron couch which you could make into a double bed, a piano, and my mom's old rocking chair (my daughter has it now). The chair was my mother's from when she did sewing before she was married. Mother gave us an old wooden bedstead with a straw mattress and an old dresser she bought at an auction for $6 ­ that was the furniture we had.

The house was old and cold. In the cold winter morning, you would come in the kitchen and find the drinking water in the pail frozen. We had to pump the water from the well and carry it into the house. We had to have a pail under the sink to catch the water that you washed you face and hands in and the dishes.

When I washed clothes, I'd heat water in a wash boiler on the stove, and after washing, I had to carry it outside too. I washed in the kitchen and I'd hang my clothes outside in the winter and summer. I had a clothes rack where I'd hang some of it out in the winter to freeze and then bring it in and set it by the stove to dry ­ what a fresh smell.

The barn was small, too ­ room for 12 cows, two horses, a bull and a couple of calves. You could only get about 10 loads of hay in the hay mound. The rest we stacked outside. We did put up a small silo and you had to throw the silage out by hand. And you threw the hay down from the hay mound, and then you had to carry it to the cows. Nothing like now with a push button and a push cart to haul the feed. The only buildings on the farm were a house, barn, granary with a corn crib attached, and an outhouse ­ not much.

The first couple years were hard going. In 1929, the Depression started. We milked six cows by hand and sold cream. We skimmed the milk with a cream separator which we had in the kitchen. You had to turn it by hand (no electricity). Cream prices weren't much. Our cream checks were $20 a month, eggs were 8 -11 cents a dozen, and hogs were 3 cents a pound when you sold them alive.

We didn't buy meat; we butchered a hog and made sausage and smoked hams. I baked bread from the flour we got when you took wheat to the mill and got flour in return. We raised potatoes and vegetables, so I canned a lot. I never bought any canned vegetables or sauce.

We had a windmill, too, to pump water to the barn for the cattle. If there wasn't enough wind to turn the windmill, we had a pump jack on the pump with a gasoline engine attached and it would pump the water.

A few years later, we built a cement tank in the ground by the well near the house.

We put a partition in it ­ one side for well water and one side for rain water from the roof of the house. The tank was on a hill, so we piped the water to the barn and into the house. We could get running water in the basement, and the rain water was pumped by hand with a cistern pump. The soft rain water we used for washing clothes, dishes and baths. We took baths in a wash tub Saturday night by the wood stove in the kitchen.

The stove had a reservoir which we filled with water. The water got warm enough to take a bath and wash dishes. We used a kerosene lamp for light in the house and a lantern in the barn ­ not too bright a light. When we had to go to the toilet, we went outside to the outhouse and used Sears & Roebuck catalogs for toilet paper.

Marcella was born at my folks home in Howard Lake. Dr. Herriman was the doctor. Mother took care of me for 10 days. In those days, you didn't go home the next day like now. It was cold, the ground and everything froze, so dad couldn't plow. But then on Nov. 11, when Marcella was baptized, it was warm and stayed nice a long time, so the people got most of their plowing done.

Kenneth was born March 16, 1932, at home. My mother came to help me. We didn't have any snow then, but that morning, we got a little to cover the ground. The ground wasn't frozen either. Two weeks later, my brother Ruskin passed away. The roads were so soft, we could hardly get in to my dad's place.

In those days, they would take the body back to the home for reviewal, and my dad's house was a mile from the main road. The hearse couldn't get through, so they put the casket in a buggy with horses hitched to it and took it to the house, and then the next day, took it to the church. On the night of the reviewal, the neighbors would stay up all night with the body in the home.

The first few years in the 1930s were rough on us. We didn't have a wash machine, so I went to Mom's every Monday morning to wash clothes. I don't remember just when, I think in 1934, we got a wash machine from Montgomery Ward for $35, which had an engine to make it run. Later we got an old wooden ice box, and the ice man from town brought out a big cake of ice to keep our milk and butter cold before we put it in a pail and hung it in the well pit. Our old basement was quite cool, too. Potatoes and vegetables kept well in there.

Also in the 30s was the big Depression. People couldn't get loans from the bank and quite a few banks closed. Some people lost money, but we didn't have money. When they wanted to build new roads, they had men do the work, not a machine. The road south of town from the cemetery to Diers' was made with horses and men holding the scraper to move the dirt. They needed a team of horses, so we let them use our team.

This job was called the W.P.A. The men got paid a little, but I can't remember if we got paid for our team of horses. The roads weren't very wide, so it was hard to plow the snow in the winter. They had a big caterpillar with a V plow on it and that did not make a very wide track. Sometimes the men had to go out and shovel to get through.

Also in '34 when we had the drought, our grain was pretty short. I rode the grain binder to cut it, and sometimes I had to set it so low it cut into the ground. The bundles of oats were so short you could hardly set them in shocks. In those days, you cut the grain, shocked it and stacked it before thrashing it. In later years, you didn't stack grain, you shocked it, loaded it on wagons, hauled it to the thrashing machine, pitched it in, and you made a straw pile. Now you combine it and bale the straw.

Our corn was short, too, and the cobs weren't very big. The hay was short, too, so we had to buy hay, but there wasn't much to buy, because everybody's hay was short. The pastures were dry and the cattle had poor grazing. Some people took their young stock up north where they had more rain. We got along and didn't have too many cattle, prices were low.

The cream we sold was 28 cents a pound for butterfat and eggs sold for 12-15 cents a dozen. We didn't have too many chickens yet ­ no chicken house. We kept them in a straw shed. We had a few hogs kept in the straw pile. We used to thresh the grain and blow the straw on a pile that made a nice shelter for hogs and young stock.

In 1935, we raised more chickens and we had more hogs to sell to help pay expenses. Then in the spring, my mother became ill. I went to help her which took some of my time. She passed away May 25, 1935.

Back to Part 2 | Go to Part 4


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