Friday, October 2, 2009

Growing up on the Farm

My mother, Naomi Davis Holt, myself, and Sandy at left
Growing up on that farm during the depression years of the late twenties and thirties of the twentieth century was an exceptional experience. This was a rural community in transition from the horse and buggy past, to modern times. Many of the local farmers, such as our nearest neighbors John and Ada Gillespie, still used horses for their farm work. By then, though, most folks used automobiles to get back and forth to town and for their social lives. Not everyone had electricity, but interestingly, just about everyone had an old crank telephone hooked up to a twelve or fifteen party line. If I remember correctly, you could ring others on the line by ringing, for instance, two longs and four shorts for a certain individual, or one long for the operator. Not too classy or convenient, but real neighborly. The favorite pastime, of course, was eavesdropping which, with every extra ear, caused the volume to decrease sometimes to an almost inaudible level.

Homes ranged from those with all modern conveniences including running water, septic system and electricity such as ours, to those without anything, not even running water. But everyone got along just fine and we learned to make allowances for each other. Just by being there and interacting with the neighbors was participating in the past. I was actively involved in neighbor helping neighbor, learning how to use tools which were remnants of the past, some already found in museums. I used horses just as my ancestors had done, learned to harness them and what to call the various harness parts. I actually drove horse-drawn wagons in work situations and rode in buggies. I pumped the blacksmith’s bellows, and used his tools. I was involved on a daily basis either at home or at a neighbors in the care and handling of cattle, sheep, chickens, butchering, harvesting and even subsistence and sport hunting and fishing. However, at the same time I learned to take modern conveniences such as electricity, telephones, radio and airplanes for granted. It was all there, the new and the old, and like the sponges we are as children, I soaked up every tiny tidbit and made of it my character.

The community at large was like an extended family. Every one knew every one else or were at least aware of whom they were. In one sense, I was raised in a huge, warm, fuzzy cocoon. A youngester acting up in that community would be reminded, by a complete stranger to him, that if he didn't straighten up his parents, by name, would be told. I could walk down any street or along any road at night and be perfectly safe. It was big band time. Our major means of being in touch with the world was the radio and out of it flowed some of the greatest music ever heard. It was our communicator on the world as well. It brought the world, for the very first time, together. The first commercial radio broadcast was made by KDKA Pittsburgh in 1926, the year I was born. Silent "Cal" Coolidge was President. Just over the horizon, unseen yet, was the greatest depression our country ever experienced. In was in those soon to be depression years that I was raised.


  1. I LOVE this picture!!! I don't think I've seen it before. I was wondering just the other day what that dog's name was. I really enjoy reading these blogs. KEEP IT UP!!!!

  2. Hi Granpa. I'm living on a farm now too, but I ride excavators instead of horses.