Remember the Thirties

I grew up with three sisters and no brothers so I didn't have much chance to play with boys.  I had a small cast iron Fordson tractor and I'd pretend to farm using a spoon for a plow, a board with shingle nails in it for a harrow and a pressure spring from a drill for a disc.  There was a small threshing machine for the tractor but money was so scarce that I never got that.  If I remember right, the tractor cost forty-nine cents.  When I got into the sixth grade I did have a Shetland pony, which was the envy of a lot of the boys.  Bill Hammer raised Shetland ponies so I would get one to ride if I broke him for riding.  I'd ride one to school and my two sisters rode the other one, in the spring and fall.  It was 1 miles to school across the field, and we'd walk most of the time in the winter unless in my dad took us with the horses.

We could only afford to heat two rooms in the house during the winter months because money was scarce to buy the lignite coal.  I slept upstairs so took my shoes and stockings off downstairs, took my pants off upstairs sleeping in my shirt and underwear, as it was so cold.  If I'd take a glass of water upstairs with me, it was frozen solid by morning.

In 1932, I graduated from eighth grade and since there was no money to go to high school I remained at home.  We milked ten cows.  From fifth grade and on, I always got up to help milk before going to school and helped with the milking and chores in the evening.

In 1933 and 1934, my dad fed thirteen steers on barley and barley straw.  Some of these steers weighed 1300 pounds when he sold them because half of them were 2 years old.  They did not gain the most on that ration but he sold all thirteen of them for $325.  He bought barley at the Shepard Elevator at 10 a bushel and lost money on feeding it.  The farmer that hauled the barley to the elevator got 7 per bushel.  Those were the good old days!

You could purchase overalls for 79 a pair, work shoes for 98.  I remember purchasing a pair of kangaroo leather dress shoes for $1.98, which was the very best shoe you could buy.  This was in 1934.

In the summer of 1936 it was so dry that we didn't get any crop, so in the winter my dad hauled straw from Blabon for the cattle and some from ten miles north of Cooperstown.  We paid one dollar per load of straw.  We hauled bundles for 20 per hour.  We got paid for the time the threshing machine was running.  We got up at 5 a.m. to take care of the horses and get them harnessed up before breakfast at 6 a.m.  We would start threshing at 7 a.m.  In the evening when the machine stopped, the pay stopped.  Then we'd take care of the horses, eat supper and go to bed in the barn unless you were close enough to home so your folks could come and get you to sleep at home.

In 1937, things started to get better as it started to rain.  But I remember we had a lot of oats that year.  We could get 17 a bushel for it and we were debating if it paid to thresh it, as the oat yield was not too great.  We figured out it cost 8 to thresh it.

We did not have any entertainment as far as a radio or phonograph (record player) nor an English newspaper, so we would visit the neighbors, freeze ice cream and play games, and we had an enjoyable time.  We did a lot of skiing.  We always had to walk back up the hill so got plenty of exercise.  We also did a lot of ice-skating.

When I went to grade school, there were up to 23 pupils in the school with first through eighth graders and one teacher.  As I have looked back over some records, I found that often the pupils from these country schools were valedictorians or salutatorians in high school.

Trygve Thompson

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 103

News & Events