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Life Growing Up on a Farm in Small Town Indiana
My grandmother Gloria B. was born in Chicago in 1940. She lived on a farm in Knox Indiana near Toto for most of her childhood. She has one sister and two brothers and lived with her family until after high school. She had some very interesting experiences living on a farm.
Before we lived on the farm in Indiana I used to live in Chicago. I lived on 53rd and Mobile. We used to have chickens. Everyone in that area had chickens and ducks and geese. That’s how rural 53rd and Mobile used to be. The ice man used to come with a wagon and we’d get chips of ice off the wagon. The rag man used to come and ask for old rags and newspapers and stuff. Up the street there was an orchard right near Archer Ave. When we were little we used to go down the hill and there was an ice cream store there, and you’d go down to the next block and there was an actual farm. I remember one incident when I lived in Chicago. My mom had just given me a bath and I was with one of my girlfriends from across the street. My big brother and his friends used to dig fox holes in the field across the street. There was water in there and her and I were playing with sticks and swishing the water and I fell in. Her mother comes running to get me, there I am all covered in mud and she brings me home to my mom and my mom took one look at me, stood me up in the bathtub and started rinsing me off. We used to visit our grandparents house too. They lived by Midway and we used to climb up into their attic to watch the planes go by. We thought it was so exciting to watch the planes fly by the house.
When we moved to the farm I was four and Lois [sister] was one. There were times it was fun but most of the time it was very hard work. We had to get up by 4:30 in the morning and milk the cows, feed the chickens, wash the hogs, go back in the house, eat breakfast, get dressed and catch the bus and go to school. At about 4:00 we came back home and started over again. It was my job to take the chickens to the stump with the axe. Lois had to hold them while the blood drained out. Then we’d have to take them into the house and pluck ‘em. We also had to pile hay on wagons. The guys used to throw the hay up and my job was to stomp the hay down. Sometimes the horses would move though and I’d roll off the wagon.
My dad always had me by his side when I was growing up except when I was in the fields ‘cause I was like his right hand man and I was his go-fer. I had to always help my mom with the laundry and the ironing and the canning and all that. I did the laundry out by the hand pump in the yard. When Lois tried to pump the water she’d go up with the pump and I would have to help her bring it back down. She was a little peanut. Richard [brother] was never around or he was very mean. Lois was my best friend, the closest person to me because we played games together, we’d go on walks together, we’d help each other, we’d get on stumps and make like we were singing on stage. We had a playhouse and our aunties bought us shoes and clothes and purses and all and we would go in there and play dress up and play in the play house. We used to take long bike rides together, find pop bottles and go to one of the stores three miles away and get a bottle of pop. There was an ice cream store uptown that had what they called a barrow cone, that had two ice cream cones stuck together and that was our Saturday night treat. We would go uptown and Lois would have half and I would have half. We used to like when our cousins from Chicago would come out cause then we would get to take a break and run around and do stuff. Our farm was by a cemetery. We used to go in there and scare people and play. We’d make like we were reading bibles. They had this stone that looked like it had a book on the top. It was an interesting place.
Even though we didn’t grow up in the Great Depression I would say we grew up in that era. Not in the Great Depression but in the war. I don’t remember any of the war ‘cause we were out in the country but it taught us to watch our pennies. We were very frugal. We only got one pair of shoes a year. Sometimes we’d get one dress pair for Easter and one for school. When your feet were curling up in the toes you knew it was time to pass them down. We had our dresses made out of feed sacks. I loved going to the feed store and picking out a feed sack for a new dress or a new skirt. I used to wear those dresses to school. I had a skirt on and there would be two rows of seats pushed together and the young man in the seat next to me had the exact shirt on. It was made from the same bag. We were lucky though because we had our own food.
There was a very large difference between social classes in my town. We were the underlings and it was very tough to get in with the people up town. We were like the farmers and the outsiders and it was hard to get accepted into the townspeople, even when we were in school. There was also one or two African American families out here. There was a girl in Richard’s class and there was a girl in Lois’s class. When my dad used to cut down trees, that was the man who would cut the trees into lumber. There wasn’t really any prejudice against them though. In fact other than African Americans we had some Japanese people here. They got along real well too. At the time it was kind of iffy but no one seemed to have any prejudice really except for out of towners.
My high school experience was tough, fun and interesting. It was a lot of work. We had home economics, business and math other than history, geography and english. I worked on the school newspaper and the yearbook. I was in cheer block and went to three proms. We went to dances uptown once a week at the Moose. I squeezed that in between taking care of Mom, Philip [brother] (Lois and I both did this) and doing the farming. By my senior year I told my dad he had to get rid of the cows because Lois and I couldn’t do it any more ‘cause mom was already getting sick. She got trampled by a cow and went blind in one eye and had Philip real late. All my best friends were from the outside. One came from Washington Township, two of them came from Northbend Township and two of us came from California Township. All of us had the same ideas and the same growing up and same money. We were all in the same class level.
One thing I remember is that I was in cheer block. I had no way to get to town which was seven miles away. I was upset because I always took my one girlfriend to CYO or wherever she wanted to go and I wanted a ride and she would not pick me up. I was so hurt, so upset that I walked to town and I went to cheer block just to say “I’ll show you”. She just started dating a new boyfriend so I forgave her. We continued to be friends after that. Her and I had this thing. She lived across the field from us and she always grew the longest nails and I always grew the longest hair. We were kinda in a competition. I also got to dance on T.V. twice on those teen dance shows.
I did a lot of extra stuff. I was good at all sports except for basketball. I was a good runner and I could play volleyball. Softball was my favorite but I could not play basketball. I was a cheerleader and I was in cheer block. It wasn’t considered a sport but it was a thing you did. You got elected to do it. We also did tumbling and baton twirling. I was a very good baton twirler. Being right handed it was strange but I twirled a lot better left-handed. I was in library too. I worked with the librarians. We’d check books in and out and all the stuff you do in a library. We’d tell people what they should get and where to find it. I used to read a lot of books when I was young, starting with the Bobsy Twins. I used to like Grimm’s fairytales and Heidi. Heidi was my favorite. I was also a reporter for the school paper and the town paper.
About half of the people from town went to college. My parents didn’t let me. I had a scholarship but they didn’t let me. It was for scholastics. Lois and I both had them. They were to Indiana University but we still couldn’t go. They said they couldn’t afford college and that I had to work. I used to dream of fantastic things once I got out of the country. I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked, although I did get to do a lot of things. It had its ups and downs. It was a very tough life.
After meeting her husband Bob at one of her cousin’s weddings when she was 19 years old, she moved back to Chicago and started raising a family of three sons. She became a grandmother when she was 40 years old and has a new great grandchild. She now lives on a farm five miles from where she grew up with her husband and youngest son.