Saturday, June 5, 2010

Life's Not Fair

Like most parents [I'm sure], I go 'round and 'round with my kids to get them to do their chores.  In fact, right now as I write, my daughter is cleaning out her closet.  Under protest.  With big "sighs".  Rolling her eyes heavenward.  [I have absolutely no idea where she gets that from.]

My son this morning even exclaimed, "This isn't fair!"  That's when I rolled my eyes heavenward, and replied, "I don't care.  Life's not fair.  Get used to it."

I snorted and added, "You don't have any idea what you're talking about.  You have it so easy."  And they do. "I had to pick up my toys, to clean my room, to clear off the table after dinner, to feed and teach the 2 double yellow-headed and 3 double red-headed parrots how to talk,  and to feed and breed the hundreds of parakeets out in the aviary.  Oh, and in the summer time, that was on top of working for both my mom at her pet shop and my dad at his truck and trailer business."

[snort] And my kids complain about cleaning their rooms?  Give me break!

Well, all this reminded of Pearl and Harve Pointer.  You know, the beautiful Pearl (Williams) Pointer?  [She was a looker, wasn't she?]  I've recently been reading her account books, or day books, of the Pointer farm in Iowa from as early as 1918 through the 1940's.  Man, we had nothing on Pearl.  She really worked.  I mean, really worked.

These books are a treasure trove of what a midwest farm was like in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's, and I can sum it up in just one word: work.

They list all the purchases and all the sales on the farm as well as yearly inventories and loans [both given and received].  From the car they owned in the early 1920's, to the road work performed in and around their farm, to the boys' allowances and pay for work on the farm.  Not to mention, what pastures different animals were placed in.  It's all there.  Below are some of my favorite entries:

3 Oct 1922 flour, mittens, oil, thread, meat $4.80
[Just as varied as a Walmart receipt of today.]

10 Oct 1920 Hail Insurance $20.00

5 Oct 1937 hair oil, putty .30
[Gotta slick back Harve's and the boys' hair.]

15 March 1920 buggy top $8.50
25 Jun 1924 buggy tongue $3.00
[Gotta keep the buggy in working order.]

20 Nov 1919 lime, cement, sand $5.18
20 Nov 1919 work on chimney $4.50
20 Nov 1919 Thimbles on chimney $.50
[Um. You mean they didn't just call the chimney repair dude?]

[Speaking on calling...]
3 Dec 1919 telephone rent $5.25

14 Sep 1919 paint for wagon $2.05

20 Sep 1919 weinies and liver $1.05
12 May 1920 plants and bologna $1.50
[There are a lot of entries for "weinies".  Apparently they liked them.  And they're cheap.  And the bologna?  The BEST bologana I've ever had is the bologna that's made in Iowa.  I know.  Iowa's known for its corn, but the bologna is their best-kept secret.]

3 Jan 1922 Lester's suit $5.00
11 Jan 1922 Harold's suit $7.08
9 Nov 1921 Shoes for girls $8.50
9 Nov 1932 Shoes for boys  & hose $5.76
[There are many entries over the years for the kids' clothes, but what stands out are the school clothes and the suits.  And really, nothing's changed about that, has it?  Oh, and I'm pretty sure the hose were for the girls.]

20 Sep 1919 shingles for house $75.70
5 Jun 1923 wallpaper, hats etc. $10.60
15 Feb 1926 lumber for chicken house $53.00
[Um.  I don't see an entry for the labor for the shingle work.  S'pose they put 'em on themselves.  On one page is a listing of room dimensions of the house for wallpaper.  Then wallpaper was purchased here and there after that.  Again, no labor listed anywhere for the wallpaper or for the chicken house.]

8 Feb 1922 Valentine $1.44
[What I wouldn't do to see that Valentine and scan it and share it with y'all...]

29 Jan 1918 bought bull of Franklin's $50

[There are a ton of animal purchases and sales over the years, as you might expect.]

23 Jan 1918 glasses $6.00
1 Feb 1918 fur coat lined $15.90
18 Feb 1918 organ $6.00
18 Sep 1924 watch repair $1.35
11 Jan 1926 Radio $102.50
[Um. I wonder whose glasses these were ~ those listed above and those pictured here.  It's not clear if the glasses  pictured were Pearl's, but it's suspected.  This farm family was better off than others if they purchased a radio in 1926.  Also, I wonder whose watch was repaired?  The one pictured here was Pearl's daddy's watch [A.O. Williams].

In big handwriting the following was written on page 45:
$191.38 eggs sold in 1920. 374 2/3 number of dozens sold.
Yes, eggs were sold every year, but this was a big egg-producing year for the farm.  [Hm. I wonder who did all that work? *eyes big and round*]

The building and maintenance of the roads to, from, and around the farm were apparently kept up by those who owned the farms.  Listings of the work done and how much it cost exist for every year for the Pointer farm.  Here are a few of the entries for 1923:

Feb 15th & 16th - 1 day digging snow; 1/2 day getting dump boards
Apr 9 - 1/2 day fixing bridge
July 14 - 1/2 day get boards for culverts
July 16 - 1 day putting in culverts
July 17 - 1 day putting in culverts & getting boards
July 18 - 1/2 day putting in culverts
July 30 - 1/2 day putting in culverts

Wow.  Looks like they had more culverts than they thought.  And culvert work sounds like a lotta fun.  And easy too.  [snort]

Here's a much-needed purchase [I'm sure.]:
10 Jul 1937 lemons, ice 50 cents
[I wonder who, um, had to make the lemonade?   Bet that tasted reeeaaal good.]

Well, I'm sure you get the picture.  At least I do.  There was a lot of work to be done back then on a farm, and probably not enough hands to do it with.   I wonder what Pearl said to her kids when they said, "That's not fair.  I don't wanna do any more culvert work."  Yeah, me too.  I'm thinkin' she told 'em something like, "Life's not fair.  Get back out there and get that culvert work done."

[Note: I do believe I will make the Pointer Family Farm Daily Books required reading this summer on our trip up to Iowa for the Pointer Family Reunion ~ from a copy, of course.]


  1. Yeah, I get that martyr act, too. It's almost as much work to get them to do their work as it is to do it myself. But obviously Pearl's and Harve's hard work paid off!

  2. My daughter is almost five, and every night we read a chapter from a Little House book (Laura Ingalls Wilder). We're halfway through "The Long Winter," and in last night's chapter, Pa and Laura were out in the unheated lean-to in sub-zero weather, twisting hay to burn because they were out of coal (and kerosene for the lamp, and flour, and meat...). My daughter said, "Why don't the just turn on the heat?"

    Later, she asked why Laura never watches TV or plays on her computer.

    One thing I've found about studying history is that it pretty much always sucks the whine right out of me.

    Oh, and that photo of Pearl is stunning. It feels like she's looking right at you through space and time.

  3. What a beauty! and what a fabulous treasure trove you have in those books! Thanks for sharing...lovely!

  4. She is a beauty. It will be a few years before the kids catch on that this "fair" business doesn't exist!

  5. Yep, we sure don't know what work is anymore! As for fair - that's where you go in the summer and throw cow chips.

    Pearl was gorgeous.

  6. My father and his family lived on a farm at about the same time your daybook was written. I suppose it's "fair" to assume that life on a farm was similar in Iowa and in Pennsylvania. Will you transcribe and post all the pages sometime? I would love it if you did. Even this little glimpse is such a treat. Thank you!

  7. Wonderful post! Thanks for the glimpse into farm life. I've often wondered what farm life was like for my many southern farmers. (The poor ones, not the ones with the big fancy houses! *wink*)

  8. Caroline, I really enjoy your blog. I look forward to each new post. I just recently started a blog of my own ( Actually, it’s a third attempt. I had another one that I neglected and decided to make a fresh, new start. Anyway, I think those that read my blog may also be interested in yours. So, I have added a link to your blog on my blog. I hope this is okay. If not, let me know.

  9. Very interesting! What a treasure to see what those times were like through your family's eyes. Thanks for sharing!


Inappropriate comments will be deleted. So keep it clean and be nice.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...