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Childhood Memories of 1937 on a Dairy Farm

It’s 1937 on a dairy farm in Northern, Illinois. My family lived in a 5-bedroom farm house built by my grandfather in 1898. It was a beautiful house – large porch in the front, large porch in the back. We had electricity but no running water for cooking, bathing, cleaning or washing clothes.

All the potable water for drinking and cooking had to be carried by bucket from the well to the house, about 100 yards one way. No running water also meant we had no inside bath tub or shower. Water for sponge baths and house cleaning was drawn from a cistern. For those who don’t know what a cistern is, it’s basically a water holding receptacle. Ours would fill from the rain water off the roof of our home. On the side of the kitchen sink we had a hand pump to drawn the water.

It wasn’t until I was about 10 years old that we finally got running water in our house; and a large copper bathtub in our basement. We still didn’t have hot running water but at least we had a tub! We would heat the water and bath one by one – the children were first and then my mother, then my dad. It was quite nice of my mother to let us kids bathe first! That’s just the way it was back then.

Remember in 1937 we had just gotten through the depression so we were grateful for everything we had. I remember reading stories of people starving. They were people like me but I don’t remember ever missing a meal. My mom and dad worked very hard to put food on our table – and enough for the whole family. Together we raised chickens and hogs; and of course since we lived on a dairy farm we had plenty of fresh milk everyday. My mother loved gardening and grew fresh vegetables and flowers every summer. She would can anything we didn’t eat fresh so we could have nourishing food all through the winter.

And boy! Do I remember the custard pies and peach cobblers! I can still smell them coming out of the oven.

Written by John Kegebein, Agricultural History Project, CEO


Agricultural History Project
Center & Museum

2601 East Lake Avenue
Watsonville, California 95076

Open EVERY 2nd Saturday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. for Second Saturday on the Farm

Tuesday - Saturday by Appointment Only
9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Call (831) 724-5898 or (831) 566-2817

Group tours may be arranged in advance by appointment.

Facilities are handicapped accessible.

Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and major holidays.