Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My summer of 1958, part 2

In the summer of 1958 I lived on my grandparents’ farm near Franklin Grove, IL when they were in their 80s and I was 18.  (See Part 1)  They were lured back to Illinois with their young son Leslie in 1908 from Wichita, Kansas, where they had lived since 1901 with  the promise of this farm home to help her ill father, then in his 80s. They took care of him until he died in 1912.  My grandmother was the only survivor of his four adult children, her oldest brother Ira having recently died of blood poisoning from an injury on his farm near Ashton and the home place. (Diphtheria and childbirth having taken the other two, Will and Martha, in the 19th century.)  Ira was the one who was helping her father manage the farms.

What our family knew as the farm house had been put together using a small house ca. 1850s, and a larger, early 1900's style, an unspectacular, 8 room, boxy farm house. Grandma had it remodeled adding a huge gracious dining room, with a bedroom and balcony above it where she had hanging plants and flowers and a second staircase, a big airy kitchen with "modern" features like a built in corn cob storage for the blue and black cookstove, manual dishwasher, a metal topped table with flour bins, a walk-in pantry/storage room, an upstairs servant's bedroom, plus two bathrooms, a dumbwaiter, a generator in the basement and a utility sink at the back door for washing up before entering the house. The dining room and the bedroom above it were the new part that joined the 19th c. and 20th c. houses together.


Some updates had been done by 1958, but the house was in poor repair.  Grandpa was not “handy” and Grandma was not a fastidious housekeeper, being much more interested in the business end of farming. And they were old—his hearing had failed, and she’d had several small strokes and falls. So, according to my steno pad diary the well wasn’t working and I was hand pumping the water I used for cleaning, cooking and dishes.  I don’t mention our drinking water in the diary, but it does give me pause to think we were probably drinking unsafe water.

I didn’t understand it then, but do now—Grandma fretted to the point of tears that she wasn’t there when Martin came to fix the well the first time.  According to my diary, Martin didn’t return until June 6.  I can’t recall how the laundry was done, but mentioned in the diary  (June 3) that Grandma had worn herself out and was out of breath gathering up laundry and we had to rush to get her to the hair dresser.  On June 6 I noted I drove to town, mailed some letters and picked up the laundry—it was $8.10.  That day after working in the garden I wrote that I washed my hair and tennis shoes—and I used only one bucket of water to do both jobs!

I wrote that the well drillers came on June 18th, and by the 20th were finished after 105 feet of drilling and finding 41 feet of water although I was still pumping pails of water for household use. A plumber had to reconnect the house to the well source.   Usually, taking a bath wouldn’t be  an event for a teen diary, but I mentioned it on June 27, and washed my hair on the 28th so maybe it was awhile before we got water in the house.

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