GRANDMA'S DIARIES • May 1954: Trouble In The Hen House


May 1954 finds Grandma consumed with Grandpa's recovering from cataract surgery, preparing for a coming visit from Alberta and her family, and doctoring sick chickens. Grandma has taken over the daily milking, helping with the field preparations, nursing sick chickens and taking care of her regular Grandma garden and houshold chores. Whew! I am always amazed at her energy. The chickens have quit laying, and some have died. This really cuts into Grandma's "egg money" income. When you consider that she had been taking at least 40 dozen eggs to market nearly every week, three eggs per day is devastating.

Saturday, May 1, 1954–I hurried to the locker for a frier. Merle came at six and Wayne and Larry at eight. They plowed all day and got done at five. Myron Hawkins helped after noon. Carl and I took 27 dozen eggs, Grade A .35 and a bucket of cream .53 to Litchfield in p.m. We came home and went to the field. I picked up stalkes and roots to help the boys.

Sunday, May 2, 1954–.9 inches rain. When I called, Jersey cow came hurrying across the pasture. I milked a bucket full and Carl got a paint bucket so I could empty some of it and milk the bucket full again.

Monday, May 3, 1954–West wind, 40 degrees. Sure is chilly. I cut out a mash sack dress and got most of it sewed up before noon. Wayne came at 11:30. I told him we were going to have biscuits and ham. He stayed. Connie came after dinner

Tuesday, May 4, 1954–33 degrees at 5 a.m. Ice in the chicken trough. New moon. I washed.

Thursday, May 6, 1954–43 degrees. What did the ice do? Answer: the cold wind in the p.m. hurt some garden and potatoes. Little damage here. Began a slow rain before ten. I went to Hillsboro and got Wayne's house coat I had cleaned, $1.25, and paid the light bill $8. Campbell came to harrow, but got rained out at ten. Carl paid him $4.50 up to date.

Friday, May 7, 1954–44 degrees. Cold wind. We left about 8 a.m. for Wayne's so they could take us to Springfield. The doctor gave Carl a hurried exam. Said come back in two weeks. His office was full. We went on to the fair grounds where Wayne saw a state veterinarian who gave him a release on the quarantine on his Mississippi shoats. Ate dinner at Kenneth Johnson's lunch room. Carl and I stopped at Herman's in Raymond. Had an oil change and grease. Balance front wheels. Repair rear directional lights. Labor on same, $7.25. Total $10.69.

Saturday, May 8, 1954–I left for Litchfield soon after dinner. So hard to find a parking space by 2 p.m. Took eggs and cream. Couldn't find a hat, so came on home. Carl and I went to Hillsboro. He paid Barnstables $130 for 26 bushels beans at $5 per bushel. His wouldn't grow. Merle, Margie and Connie brought me a two compartment bake dish in a basket for Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 9, 1954–Didn't go anywhere. I was tired by the time I got my work done. Wayne’s came after dinner. They brought Twinkle, the pony, to stay until she weans Comet, her colt. They mowed the grass on east of driveway, and Larry mowed the yard. I gave him $1.

Monday, May 10, 1954–Cold wind. I didn't wash. A letter from Mrs. Beckmier told me if I would bring the makings for my quilt, the Irving M.E. ladies would quilt it very soon. I put a border on the pieced top, sewed and pressed the lining, and we took it over to her. They charge a cent and a half per yard, but it is a quilt for Connie. The other children's quilts are finished.

Tuesday, May 11, 1954–Cold wind. No rain. I washed. Had to bake corn bread for dinner. Also made cup cakes. I went with Mrs. Streight to Home Bureau meeting at the community house. Dorothy Ward and Mabel Clift gave a demonstration on outdoor cooking.

Friday, May 14, 1954–I went quilting, the first time for two months. They are doing nicely on Lela Green's second quilt. Mary Nimmons went along but didn't quilt. Wayne's first planting is up. We went to Wayne's early evening. Wayne was planting corn. He complains the ground is drying out. Junior Streight came to disk and harrow for Carl. Very satisfactory.

Sunday, May 16, 1954–Tiny shower at 5 p.m. I went to church and Sunday School. We went to see where the new house is being built north of Duncheon's. Only the basement finished so far. Wayne’s, all but Larry, came.  Linda wanted to see Twinkle. Merle’s all came at night. Church voted to have preaching at 9 a.m. through the summer.

Monday, May 17, 1954–Full moon, sign Scorpio watery, fruitful, feminine. Wayne brought his planter at noon. He planted 32 acres of corn and got done by eight. Junior Streight stayed with him to the end. They ate supper with us. Carl and I went after seed corn at Harold Laughlin's. I helped Mrs. McCammon put her quilt in the frames at the church. Mrs. Jenkins helped also. John Keith planted his corn today. Tom Dammann planted in the field south of us. Dr. Duncan says Carl need not put any more more salve in his eye. Junior Streight came at 7 a.m. and worked until 8 p.m. Carl brought two and a half bushels no. 300 MR at $9.25 per bushel, 339 MF at $11.50 per bushel. $Total 51.88.

Tuesday, May 18, 1954–Maple seeds are falling. I made my first pecan pie. Wayne came about seven and planted corn on the old hedge row, then planted 20 acres of beans all of them and got done by noon. Geraldine came and we tore paper off the bedroom. After dinner we hurried to Hillsboro for tomato plants. Got Jubilee-orange colored, Marglobe and Stone maybe.

Friday, May 21, 1954–News came that Shirley Streight was killed early this a.m. in an auto accident. Carl got a notice that the insurance on all the buildings had expired May 19. I washed, and then we went to Farm Bureau where he paid up on the insurance, $67.33. We took back two bushels of soy beans that hadn't been opened. Roy Hewitt paid him $10 for them. Just what Carl paid. We had chicken feed ground. We went to Bob Nimmons at night. Mary and I made a list of the ladies we intended to invite to a Stanley party, June 1. Tom Dammann mowed his grass east of our garden. He says the alfalfa won't bloom. The frost got it.

Saturday, May 22, 1954–Cloudy skies. We went to Raymond and got Oreomysin for the chickens. Most of them have a rattle in their throats. Bronchitis I guess. $7.50 for the powder. Dose: two teaspoons to one gallon of water. Carl took the check for the remainder of his baled hay he had to sell. Tom Dammann paid him $118.30 for 104 bales, making $354.65 total off 14 acres. Took eggs and cream to Litchfield. Came back to Hazel Martin's to plan for the Streight funeral. Went to Hillsboro to Krogers to buy nine pounds hamberger, $3.

Monday, May 24, 1954–I made my four and a half pounds of beef into a meat loaf, made two dishes of cottage cheese and went to Streight at 9:30. Thelma McBroom brought 11 pies, two dishes of escalloped potatoes, two dishes of fruit salad. Also three loaves of bread, oleo, and Hazel Martin. There were between 35 and 40 there. The funeral was at one p.m., burial was at Maroa. We had too many pies; six would have been plenty, too much meat loaf. Six pounds would have been plenty.

Tuesday, May 25, 1954–.1 inch of rain about 3 a.m. Geraldine went to Ladies Aid meeting at Mrs. Keith's. Wayne finished rolling the pasture corn, then he took out the storm windows and put in the screens and painted the bathroom door. Hens have green droppings, sneeze, rattle.

Wednesday, May 26, 1954–Cloudy this morning. We left about 7:30 for Wayne's. Geraldine took us to Springfield to the doctor. We got in almost immediately. The doctor says his eye is doing fine. He doesn't think he'll give him glasses for that eye for at least three months. He made an appointment for Aug. 25. I bought a new hat. Carl paid $27 in full to St. John’s Hospital. Ran through a heavy rain before we got home. It was .3 inches. A Moorman big shot says our hens have had Newcastle disease. No eggs at all. He says hens are immune now. We bought 25 pounds Triple X Moorman powder spray for hens, $4.13. We got three eggs.

Thursday, May 27, 1954–.4 inches rain last night. Everything looks swell. Beans are coming up. Carl made a gate, put it up and turned Tom Dammann's cattle into the pasture. He wants them to eat it off real short. Wayne’s came late. He gave the bathroom door another coat of paint. They took Twinkle home. We got three eggs.

Friday, May 28, 1954–Carl started milking again. I want to Hillsboro where I engaged Mrs. Charlie Brown to paper the bedroom. I got more tomato plants at Henry's Greenhouse.

Saturday, May 29, 1954–About .7 inches of rain. We loaded up nine bushels and 20 pounds of wheat, about all we had left of our old wheat and took it to Harvel, $1.98 per bushel. We went to Hillsboro after dinner. Carl took out insurance on corn, beans, and oats. I got wallpaper for the bedroom. Carl paid the taxes for the year at Raymond bank, $329.23. Army worms have almost taken my garden.

Sunday, May 30, 1954–Rain in the p.m. I cut four bouquets of flowers, and we left home about 9 a.m. Drove to the Fillmore cemetery, then to Nokomis where we ate dinner, then to the Kettelkamp cemetery. We stopped at the Candy Kitchen in Nokomis. Got a milk shake. Ran into a slight rain about Vanderville.

Monday, May 31, 1954–I had a big washing. Went after the mail. Cleared out the bedroom and baked a cake and cowboy cookies. Howy Ward came and bought a part of our cribbed corn. He paid Carl $500 but will not start hauling it for perhaps two weeks. Carl tried to hoe corn, but couldn't see the rows. Put louse powder on hen roost.

Carole (Best) Brown of Golconda provides Journal-News readers with this glimpse of the past from her grandmother, Mary Edith (Newport) Best, Butler farm wife. Carole may be reached at


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