I am sure that it would be very difficult now for a young person to imagine what it would be like to live, day to day, without electricity. Light was provided by kerosene lamps inside of the house and by kerosene lanterns outside and in the barns. Even though we moved from the farm during the year that I became ten years old, I had chores to do, both night and morning, and in the winter time some of them had to be done after dark. If you have never walked from the house to the barn, through the snow, carrying a lantern and watching your shadow, from the lantern, walking along beside you, you have missed a little piece of life that I have been able to appreciate and enjoy.
Just try to think of all of the electrical devices that are common today, that we did not have in the 1920’s, the refrigerator for one. In the rural areas, perishable food, if kept at all, was put in the “cellar” or in the “well pit”. The cellar was what is now the basement and the well pit was a hole , usually about six feet deep that surrounded the well pipe. This pipe had a hole in it, well below the ground line that was normally plugged, but could be opened to drain the water down to prevent freezing in the winter time. Possibly some of the more “well to do” farmers that lived near a lake or a pond, might have had an Ice House that, in the winter, could be filled with cakes of ice that were packed in sawdust.
City folks had an advantage over the country folks, in that they had an Ice Man that came around two or three times a week and filled their ice box. A numbered card that told the vendor how many pounds of ice was wanted, was placed in the front window of the house. The Ice Man would bring that much ice in, put it in the box and pass along to the housewife all of the news that he had gathered from the other ladies on his route. I am quite convinced that it was the Ice Man and the mail man that replaced the town crier of the earlier days. Even though the method of delivery was more sophisticated, the ice still came from the same basic source as the farmer’s did, a lake or a pond, and contained just as many small fish and as much aquatic vegetation. I suppose that in the larger cities they had artificial ice, but not in the small towns and in the country.
We did not have radios or TV’s. We read, played games, and talked with each other for home entertainment. In most cases you went to bed soon after dark because you were so pooped that you couldn’t stay awake, and you knew that you were going to be getting up before daylight the next morning.
We didn’t have air conditioning, you just sweat it out. The houses were built differently, at that time, the ceilings were higher and the walls were thinner which, I suppose, made the interior cooler. I know that it did in the winter time.
Just try to imagine what the kitchen was like, with it’s wood burning cook stove going full blast. Bear in mind also, that all cooking and baking, both summer and winter, was done with that stove. You did not go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. There were two reasons for this, one was that the grocery stores did not have bread and the other reason was that there was no stores within six miles, even if they did sell bread. All food came out of the kitchen via that blast furnace.
We didn’t have electric fans either. When it became unbearably hot, in the house, at night, you went out onto the porch an swatted mosquitoes. You needed to swat them because insecticides had not yet been invented. The only other way to keep them from eating you alive, was to build a smudge fire with corn cobs which did a better job getting rid of people than it did in getting rid of mosquitoes.
We didn’t have automatic central heating with forced circulation. We had an 18 inch Round Oak Heating Stove in the double doorway between the dinning room and the living room, and the cook stove in the kitchen. The Parlor was always closed off, in the winter time, and the only heat that reached the second floor, where us kids slept, was what came up through a grill covered hole in the floor, and believe me, that was darned little when it was time to get up in the morning. Us kids would jump out of bed (when forced to), tear down the stairs and get in front of the oven door of the cook stove. that was usually where we dressed, because that was where we had left our clothes the night before.
The cook stove had, what was called, a reservoir at the end opposite the fire box that held about ten gallons of water. This water was heated by the hot flue gasses that had passed around the oven on their way to the chimney. This was a very good idea because, it furnished a constant supply of warm and sometimes hot water. That is, it did if there was at least one boy in the family to keep it filled. It also furnished the inspiration for starting a fight, in case there was more than one boy available. This was true in our case, because there seemed to be no way that my brother and I could ever agree which one’s turn it was to was to fill the reservoir. The wood box also entered into this same decision making process. I might mention that there was no compensation connected with those duties except room and board. During my lifetime I have seen kids advance, by stages, from abject slavery, without pay, to complete independence and freedom from all responsibility, with pay.
Our only domestic water supply was the hand pump and the windmill. The hand pump was a part of the wind mill that could be disconnected from the wind driven mechanism, and operated independently by hand, or in some cases, by a gasoline engine. Under normal conditions the pump was left connected to the wind driven element and operated whenever the wind blew. The water discharged into a tank at the base of the mill in which was located an overflow pipe that ran, underground, to the stock watering tank at the barn. This arrangement usually provided adequate water for the stock and what was not used just overflowed onto the ground. Dad always kept a couple of Bullheads (Catfish) in the stock tank. He said that they kept the interior clean.