GRANDMA'S DIARIES • August 1953: Plumbing Projects


August 1953 continues the saga of bringing plumbing into the house. No more pumping water from the hand pump in the kitchen and heating it to wash dishes, and best of all no more trips to the outhouse. The total cost of adding the bathroom and modernizing the kitchen was $1,616.97. I wonder how that amount would translate to 2020 dollars. 

All families live through rough times, and our family is no exception. Grandma's sister, Maud Mundhenk, arrived from Missouri to spend several weeks. Her son, Earl who was in his early 30's had recently died. He had been blinded as a teenager in a farming accident, but in spite of his disability he and his mother had continued to farm.  Harley Newport, Maud and Grandma's brother, who lived in Taylorville was dying of brain cancer. But through all the upheaval the daily chores still had to get done–eggs must be gathered, and the peaches must be canned. 

Saturday, Aug. 1, 1953–We left at 5:30 for Wayne's for him to take us to Springfield. We met Root at Booth & Thomas and picked out the sink and lavatory, hot water heater, and stool. Got home by ten o'clock. Sink ($121.20) and cabinet ($107.80)=$229. (I think these two items were for the kitchen.) Stool ($42.10), seat cover ($5.50), water heater ($135.35), lavatory ($36.95), recess tub ($94.30).

Sunday, Aug. 2, 1953–Hot. Little shower. Went to Harley's. They brought him home Friday. He can walk to the bath room with Emma's help. Went on to the park to the Best reunion, some 42 there. Came back to Harley's. Very restless.

Tuesday, Aug. 4, 1953–.6 inches rain through the night, very gentle, then .2 inches later. It was needed badly. Wayne worked until noon. He gave the nail heads and strips another coat. I went to Hillsboro, got a quart of paint ($4.54) and the order from Sears of aluminum corner strips and the tile wall covering. Cost $7.35. We went to Raymond and the septic tank man said the men would come tomorrow to put it in.

Wednesday, Aug. 5, 1953–Cloudy. The septic tank men didn't come. Wayne came and painted the bathroom after noon. We went to Kennedy's, Taylorville and got the twin windows for the kitchen, $25.71, then to Harley's. He was standing in the bed room door. We took a commode for him to use. Carl paid A.J. Root $78 for the bath tub.

Thursday, Aug. 6, 1953– 58 degrees at 6 a.m. Carl paid John Welge $71.13 for septic tank. I took off for Hillsboro to get floor tile. Couldn't get what I wanted, so went to Litchfield. Nothing there. Went back to Latham’s at Hillsboro and there found what I wanted–ivory with red and black flecks. Wayne put on second coat of paint and the tile down by noon and went home. Three men from Raymond put in the septic tank and dug the ditch for the out let all west of the house. Rudy Monke died last night.

Friday, Aug. 7, 1953–Two weeks since I planted radishes. How are they? Just coming up right now. We went to Hillsboro. Carl paid $30.96 auto insurance, on to Witt to buy rock and gravel to put under outlet pipe from septic tank, on to Nokomis to see about white peaches. Mr. Sanders had died the past winter. We got a peck, 25 cents. Must order in advance. My back hip hurts. Augie came to figure again on pipes for bath room. Paid John Welge $71.13 for septic tank and installation.

Saturday, Aug. 8, 1953–59 degrees at 6 a.m. Showered last night. We expected Martin's from Witt to bring rock and gravel. They didn't come. We went to Rudy Monke's funeral. Quite a rain at same time. No rain here. We went on to Hillsboro, and I got a bath set for Dick Rehner's wedding. Came home and Carl mowed weeds, and I called at Marian's. Ralph Neihaus and Helen Bateman married.

Sunday, Aug. 9, 1953–Went to Dicky Rehner and Darlene's wedding at 2:30 and to the reception which followed. Wayne's came, and he put on the south wall Conga wall so Augie could go to work.

Monday, Aug. 10, 1953–Larry came and brought Rascal (his pinto horse). His feet are sore from wearing his shoes too long. Augie Root and Clarence Keith made pipes fit to the septic tank west of the house. Martin from Witt brought rock and gravel for the drain pipe.

Tuesday, Aug. 11, 1953–Lattimer started digging the tile ditch to drain the sink water away. Wayne, Larry, Carl and I went to Merle's for dinner. Geraldine and Linda there also. Florence Robinson got home from the hospital. George and Fern (Best) came about two. Wayne, Geraldine and Linda took a truck load of hogs to market.

Wednesday, Aug. 12, 1953–.3 inches of rain before 8 a.m. Augie and Clarence got pipes connected to sink and hot water heater, bath tub. Light company says they can't put our 220 wire on before next week. Heck!

Thursday, Aug. 13, 1953–Augie, Clarence and Ben finished the plumbing. Took some time to move the old sink into the pantry. Wayne got $25.75 per for 31 head of hogs. Margaret did my washing. I ironed later.

Friday, Aug. 14, 1953–94 degrees at noon. Carole came home with me. Larry and Rascal went home after being here since Monday. Wayne came in p.m. long enough to paint first coat on bathroom and window trim. Carl paid A. Root $767.29.

Sunday, Aug. 16, 1953–Almost one inch of rain by noon. We went to Wayne's then on to see Harley. He is about the same. Vivian wants to send him to Jacksonville. How I hate the thought. She says she will not be a slave to anyone.

Monday, Aug. 17, 1953–We went back to Harley's this after noon and talked to Vivian. She has three more weeks at home. Her mother will be alone with Harley then. It was dark when we got home.

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 1953–Wayne came, gave the bath room the second coat of paint, put in the shelves over the bath tub, put in new floor in northwest corner of the kitchen. Paid Geraldine $50 for kitchen wall cupboards.

Wednesday, Aug. 19, 1953–The light company put our 220 wire on and changed the meter. Clarence Keith came to see that every thing was hooked up right.

Thursday, Aug. 20, 1953–Ben Lattimore came to paint the kitchen–white ceiling and trim and sunshine yellow walls. Augie brought Ben out here and turned on our hot water heater.

Friday, Aug. 21, 1953–Merle and Margie left about two for Maud's at Tyrone, MO. I am trying to get things off the bed so I can put Maud to sleep in there. Ben L. finished painting.

Saturday, Aug. 22, 1953–I washed then ironed after supper. Mr. Campbell here all day. Mrs. Toberman gave me a bushel of nice peaches. Carl broke his mower, and Campbell and Carl worked all the afternoon trying to fix it.

Sunday, Aug. 23, 1953–We went to the Taylorville hospital. We wanted to know if they would take Harley there. Yes, at $10 a day, private room. Left my purse when we stopped at Harley's.

Monday, Aug. 24, 1953–Maud and I canned 18 quarts peaches. We picked a big bushel of grapes. Howy Ward paid Carl $744 for corn. Carl paid Raymond Lumber $95.45. I paid Sears $58.32.

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 1953–We hurried and canned grapes with seeds for butter later on. Took the eggs–offering .60 for grade A–then went to Hillsboro. Ate dinner, then to Coffeen to see some shoats, to the Fillmore cemetery, to a store to see salvage cabinets and on home.

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 1953–Hot! I put the hem in Margie's dress. She sewed on the buttons. She and the girls stayed for dinner, then went home. Carole stayed and cleaned the bathroom.

Friday, Aug. 28, 1953–Carole came to stay.

Saturday, Aug. 29, 1953–Hot! Mrs. Toberman called at noon and gave us a bushel and a bucket of nice peaches which we proceeded to can. 

Sunday, Aug. 30, 1953–We went past Wayne's on our way to see Harley. He said, “How yuh Maud.” Came home ate a cold lunch and went to Charles Newport's to the Newport-Butler reunion. Stayed for supper and saw Leslie Newport's colored slides of their vacation. Eugene Leedy and wife with Leslie Newport and wife attended from Kansas. Wayne and James Ward left for Tennessee.

Monday, Aug. 31, 1953–Hot and so dry. We did a great big washing. Made two batches of white grape jelly. One batch doesn't look so hot. Went after groceries. I cut up some more rags for Harley's use. Takes lots of them. New beans at Thomasville, $2.51. Moisture content 11/12, 30 to 35 bushels per acre.

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


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment