GRANDMA'S DIARIES • October 1953–One Of The Driest


1953 was one of the driest years on record in central Illinois. The yields of both beans and corn are thin, which is worrisome to the farm families. Because  the economy of Main Street and the farms was so intertwined, I imagine that the incomes of most people in the county were affected. Grandma mentions that my brother Jim and I were working in the corn field. This was a little money maker for us to be able to buy Christmas presents for family and friends. The corn picker always left some  corn in the fields. We used gunny sacks and walked the rows filling them with the ears of corn the picker had missed. It was a good gig for kids. It took us nearly all day to walk the rows, but we would always find enough to finance our Christmas shopping. Our little sister, Connie, had an easier job. She often went quilting with Grandma, and was put to work dusting the pews. Grandma created an innovative method to keep her occupied. Connie sat on a large dust rag and scooted from one end of the pew to the other end. Butler Union Church had the cleanest pews in the neighborhood. The only sour note in October was the vandalism that popped up in the neighborhood. This required the neighbors to form a watch committee to look out for any trouble.

Thursday, Oct. 1, 1953–52 degrees at 6 a.m. So very dry yet. We went to Litchfield to look at Dr. Stratmier's cow. Skinny but $150. Too much. Carl got his watch from Schwabe, new crystal and one hand, $2.80. Mary and I went quilting. Florence Robinson, Mary Lou Foster, Mary and I finished Mrs. Robinson's quilt which was started July 24. John Keith got done picking corn.

Friday, Oct. 2, 1953

61 degrees at 6 a.m. I went to Margaret's to a Stanley party. Nice crowd. She got a lovely mirror. Merle's well is dry.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 1953–Hunted a bulldozer. Had a flat left front tire after we got home. Took it to Hillsboro to get it fixed. Tire had cracks on the inside. Later went back to Hillsboro, had a boot put in it to use as a spare. Took Mrs. Toberman four dozen pullet eggs. A Mrs. Atterbury backed out from the curb east of the courthouse, hit the car and made a long dent in the right front door. 

Monday, Oct. 5, 1953–Had .7 inch of rain since yesterday morning. Certainly was welcome. Lots of wells and ponds are dry. Howy Ward has all his machinery here to pick corn. Wayne came after dark and brought his three wagons. He was cold after riding the tractor all the way. Geraldine and children followed him. We went to Wayne's before 8 a.m. Howy picked a big load about 3 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 1953–A cold wind all day. Howy went to the field at 5 a.m. and picked 20 acres in our northwest field, had 16 loads and a piece and was back to the house at 2:40 p.m. James Ward, Jake Mutchler, Wayne, Howy, Herman, Howy's hired hand, and Carl helped. Merle came at noon to help, then took our Majestic cookstove and old cupboard home with him. Margie and Connie helped me. Carl said the nitrogen he put on the corn didn't do much. Got our heater up. 

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 1953–35 degrees at 6 a.m. We went to see the bulldozer man again, then to Litchfield. The new A&P store had their opening; such a crowd. Helen Skinn got two young roosters, 11 pounds at .22 for her mother. Mrs. Keith and I went to the Community House in p.m. to help make cancer dressings. ATA at night. Mrs. Keith stayed with us. Top hogs, $22.50; lowest in six months.

Thursday, Oct. 8, 1953–I got done washing before 9 a.m. I wanted to go to Witt and see about a kitchen heater. Carl thought the bulldozer man might come to look at the big hedge. He did come about one o'clock. I ironed at night. We got 57 pullet eggs

Friday, Oct. 9, 1953–44 degrees. Clear and so dry. I went quilting. Only four there. Mary Ann Ward and Carole Sue came home with me to spend the night. They ordered me out of the kitchen when it came time to wash dishes.

Saturday, Oct. 10, 1953–We all went to Hillsboro after noon. Carole got herself a pair shoes.

Sunday, Oct. 11, 1953–We went to Sunday School. Took a ride and went to Greenville, then almost to Vandalia and through Coffeen. Lots of beans unharvested yet down that way. Too dry early, I suppose. Merle left for St. James, MO, with a load of Sturgeon's furniture about 9 p.m. 64 pullet eggs.

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1953–The bulldozer worked until after noon taking out the hedge on the east side of the north 40 acres. He also pushed out some brush around where the house used to be. He burned the brush. I went to Home Bureau at the Community House. We went to Mrs. Hayes’ at night to watch television. Carl paid the man $75. He was from Nilwood.

Thursday, Oct. 15, 1953–Still dry. No school–teachers’ institute. Carole and Jim worked until noon picking up corn. They didn't find very much. Campbell helped Carl really give the hen house a good cleaning. Elmer Eckhoff bought the old hens and roosters, except a few to butcher. Merle, Jim, Carole and I went to HCHS to hear “Wings Over Jordan.”

Friday, Oct. 16, 1953–We went to Lowrys, Hillsboro and bought a kitchen heater, $25.00. They brought it in p.m. Campbell here, but I left the men to eat dinner, and went to the Helping Hand meeting. Eight ladies and Connie ate dinner. We wasted a lot of time trying to find out how Harriet Busby wanted her quilt marked.

Saturday, Oct. 17, 1953–Still dry. Very cool nights. Carl worked down ground on pulled out hedge row. Burned brush pile. He went to the Hendrick's sale after noon and bought an electric heater, $9. I repaired and painted my flower stand. Athe Sammons, aged 85, passed away about 7 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 18, 1953–I went to church and Sunday School, then we went to Merle's for dinner. Merles went to see Mary Lou (Bondurant) was home from Carbondale University. Lyle McKown buried. Lela Newport's husband.

Monday, Oct. 19, 1953–Some cloudy. I washed. Wayne came after the big tank and a roll of woven wire. Carl took our car to Raymond to take out the dents, etc. and a simonizing job. Waynes took us to Athe Sammons' funeral. We gave Geraldine a nice bath set for her birthday.

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1953–I dug the peanuts, afraid they have not matured. Carl was sick. Staggered to davenport; later went to bed. Felt better later and ate a good supper about 8. Merle took hogs to St. Louis.

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 1953–I helped what I could to put in the new dropping boards in the hen house, We borrowed Merle's car and went to Hillsboro to Rader’s to buy the above lumber. We went after our car. Herman’s took the dents out of it and simonized it, $12.50.

Friday, Oct. 23, 1953–Mrs. Streight came to ask about a missionary donation. We decided on $30. We carried and hauled 151 head of pullets and a few roosters to the hen house at night.

Sunday, Oct. 25, 1953–Didn't go to Sunday School. Waynes came at ten for dinner. They all got ready to go to Ware’s Grove to church at two, but Jake Mutchler called saying one of Wayne's recently purchased steers was sick, so Wayne and Carl went up there. I went with Geraldine and children to church and Sunday School. Jess Masters died about 11:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 1953

By noon we had gotten 1.9 inches of rain. Carl got a check from the insurance company. $4.32 to pay for head light that Woodrow Harris broke when he backed his truck into our car.

Wednesday, Oct. 28, 1953–Clear and chilly. We have our kitchen heater working. We went to Jess Masters' funeral. I got a new pair slippers, $9.00. The Helping Hand furnished a lunch of meat loaf, escalloped potatoes, jello and apple salad, coffee and pie.

Thursday, Oct. 29, 1953–Purl Van Hyning's funeral. We didn't go. George and Fern got here at 12. We had vegetable soup. Ha! We drove to King's west of Irving. Carl wanted to see his cows. He will have a sale next week. Some Litchfield youths caught after almost ruining the Crabtree Cemetery. ATA men are patrolling our roads on through Saturday night. Somebody cut Jim Garmon's fence.

Friday, Oct. 30, 1953–I went with Carl to a Raymond blacksmith to have a shank on a rolling coulter bent. Mary and I quilted on Mrs. Busby's quilt. The St. Louis Weather Bureau reported the past summer as the second driest and fourth hottest in 117 years.

Saturday, Oct. 31, 1953–Carl sowed timothy seed in the chicken yard and plowed on the west side of the pasture. Hard to plow. He has never plowed it in 37 years.

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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