A look at
Minonk's past

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Childhood memories

By Dave Uphoff

Much of this web site has been devoted to what the city of Minonk looked like 100 years ago. Little mention has been made of the changes in the rural area of Minonk. Believe me, they have been considerable also.

As everyone knows, the farm industry has gone through a revolution that resulted in the elimination of most small farms. I was born and raised on a small farm southwest of Minonk and regret their demise. In my lifetime of 60 years I have seen a remarkable change in our lifestyle. So for you oldtimers come along with me as I drift through memory lane, back to the days before we would all play bingo and wonder about the mass-production of goods we used to put our backs out making rather than a seemingly endless line of machines, crop harvesters and marketing execs.

I was 5 years old when we first had electricity installed in 1946. Before that we had to read by kerosene lanterns at night. I can still remember the black soot that would form on the ceiling above the lanterns. Also, we had no indoor plumbing. We had a two holer about 50 feet east of the house stocked with the latest Montgomery Ward catalogue. I can still remember how embarrassed I was when I ran from the outhouse to the schoolbus waiting to pick me up and the kids on the bus were laughing at me because I had just come from the outhouse.

We went to a one room country school house across the road from our farm. Each morning Kathryn Tarman, our teacher, would have to get to the school at 7:00 and fire up the hardcoal burner at the front of the room to heat the school. In the foyer of the schoolhouse was a water bucket with a dipper that everyone drank out of for water. Remember, this was pre-EPA days. At recess we would play Andy-I-Over. This simple game consisted of a group of children grouping on both sides of the school house. The kids on one side would throw a ball over the roof and yell Andy-I-Over. The group on the other side would then catch the ball and attempt to run to the opposite side without being tagged by one of the kids from the other side. Can children nowdays get entertainment from such simple events?

In those pre-television days radio was our entertainment. We would lie on the floor with eyes closed and listen to shows like Inner Sanctum, The Shadow, The Buster Brown Show and even the WLS Barn Dance with Lulu Belle and Scotty. The extent of your imagination was the only limit to your enjoyment of these programs. On Thursday nights we would go to the Benson street movies. Max Ruppert was the projectionist and he would hang a white sheet across a wire on Main street and use that as the movie screen. Folding chairs were set up in the middle of the street for the movie goers.

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This also was the beginning of the cold war years. I remember laying in bed at night and hearing the drone of the low flying propeller planes overhead. I was certain that it was the Russians coming to get us and I would pull the covers over my head and tremble in fear.

We had an icebox to store our milk and eggs. Once a week we would go into town and get a couple of blocks of ice from Chris Janssen on Maple Avenue where Steve White now lives. Sometimes my Dad would hang beer and butter in a net down in the dug well to keep them cool. In those days everyone used butter and lard for shortening. Margarine was white and came in a plastic bag with a red dot in the middle. You had to squeeze the red dot in the bag for a few minutes in order to make the margarine turn yellow.

Every country home had a bucket of well water on the sink with a ladle. Everyone drank from that same ladle. On Saturday nights my Dad would give my brother and I a bath in the washtub. If you wanted hot water you had to heat a pan of water on the cookstove which was fueled by coal and cobs. You almost always washed yourself with cold water.

In the summer time gyspies would stop and camp at the school house on the corner with their horses and painted wagons. My Dad told me when he was a kid the gypsies would get up early in the morning and milk his cows before they took off for unknown destinations. We lived near the Santa fe tracks and every summer the same hoboes or tramps would stop and ask for some food. My mother would make us kids hide in the dining room while she would give the woe begotten individual a sandwich.

The countryside was so different then. Each farm had hedge rows and fences. Farmers used four-year rotation which meant each farm had an alfafa field in additon to corn, oats, and bean fields. Most farmers had milk cows and chickens which meant there were pastures as well. In short, the countryside was much more lush and interesting than it is now. Pheasants and meadow larks were much more plentiful. Orchards and gardens were standard features.

I could go on but you get the picture. Even though we were poorer then, life seemed richer. Nobody was rich but nobody was hungry either. Neighbors visited each other often. After suffering through a depression and a World War everyone was happy just to be able to be alive and have a job and to be with their loved ones.

Going from kerosene lamps to the internet in 50 years covers a lot of ground. We have gone through so much change. No wonder children sometimes are strangers to their parents. They haven't a clue to the life their parents had as youngsters and the parents have no idea what type of future their children will have. We live in different times.