Minnesota's Greatest Generation

Lawrence Schaub: Everyone Participated

In Lawrence Schaub's reminiscences, "Another Time, Another Place," he writes about his childhood on a Minnesota family farm during the 1930s. Mr. Schaub was born on a farm near Westport in west-central Minnesota in 1926. Although very young during the Great Depression, he and his younger siblings were expected to assist with the work on the farm. The following story from his memoir help paint a picture of some of the everyday chores younger Minnesota farm children did during this time period.

Memoir Excerpts

Our farm was a dairy farm and we had a large herd of Holstein dairy cattle. My father, Fred, was also a licensed land surveyor and he performed this work as well as work on the farm. Since my father worked part time at land surveying, everyone participated with the work on the farm. Even the small children, such as myself had to do chores.

The younger children, including myself, butchered the chickens. This wasn't one of my favorite jobs to do, as I felt quite sorry for the poor chickens. However, it was a job that had to be done to provide meat for our large family. I have very vivid memories of chopping the heads off the chickens with an axe and missing the chicken, which made a large mess of the whole operation. Later my aim improved, things went a little more smoothly. Thank goodness for myself and the poor chicken. The dead chickens were dipped into scalding water and all of the feathers were removed.

My job was to bring the cows in from the pasture into the barn so they could be milked. I enjoyed this job quite a bit as it afforded me an opportunity to ride our white horse, Queen. She was a gentle horse and easy to ride.

The haying operation in those days entailed a lot of hard physical labor. The hay (alfalfa) was cut by a horse drawn sickle mower. After it had dried it was raked into windrows by using a piece of equipment we called a dump rake. The raking of the hay was one of the jobs I could do and I didn't mind doing it at all, as it involved using the horses.

Feeding the chickens was one of the jobs the smaller children could do. You didn't have to be big and strong to hand feed the chickens. The pails of corn and ground oyster shells were spread around the inside of the hen house - which we called the building we kept the chickens in. Once every day it was also our job to collect all the eggs that were laid by the chickens.

Gardening in those days was a lot of hard work. This type of work was of a nature that the small children were able to help. Our vegetable garden was huge. The vegetable garden was fertilized by spreading cow manure over it in the spring. It was then plowed and the earth worked until it was in the condition to be planted with vegetables. We all participated in the planting of the vegetable garden. We planted just about every kind of vegetable you could think of. As the vegetable garden grew, it was the job of the younger children, such as myself, to take care of it. There were a lot of weeds that had to be pulled out and also much hoeing of the ground around the plants. A never-ending job during growing season. After the vegetables had matured, it was our job to harvest the vegetables.

A typical morning on the farm began by rising very early. In the winter it was always dark outside and lanterns were used both in the house and the barn for lighting. After getting dressed and warmed up, the men, including myself, would go to the barn and proceed to milk all of the cattle. the milk was then run through the separator and the cows and horses were fed.

When all of this work was completed, we all went back into the house for a huge breakfast. All three meals in those days were larege meals. Breakfast usually consisted of fried pork chops, oatmeal and sometimes cream of wheat. Fried potatoes and eggs, milk for the younger kids and coffee for the grown-ups. ...Lots of homemade bread with lots of butter, jam and jellies of all kinds. Dinner was just a variation of breakfast. usually we had fried chicken or canned meat made into stews or soups. Lots of mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, vegetables and beverage the same as breakfast. ...Because of the nature of farm work in those days, which almost always consisted of hard physical labor, it required a great deal of food to be able to do the work and not get sick.



Schaub, Lawrence Another Time, Another Place. Copyright 2006, used with permission of the author.