Growing Up On The Farm

A a child, Pa liked to play cowboys and indians.

Think about how much technology we use during the day. It’s working even before we wake up. Air conditioning, television, smart phones, computers, and running water; all these are things that the past generations lived without. These technological advances make life easier, but you don’t need them to be happy in life. We see this through the story of Paul Magnin, my grandpa’s, childhood.

Growing up near St. James, a small Missouri town, Paul (or Pa, as I may refer to him) lived on a farm outside of town with his family. They had no TV, no air conditioning, no telephone, and no indoor plumbing. They lived with what we think of today as the bare minimum, but they were happy, nonetheless. It was these aspects that influenced Pa’s childhood, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

On a normal school day, Pa and his siblings would wake up early in the morning, do morning farm chores, and walk one mile to their one room schoolhouse. There was one teacher for grades 1st through 8th. The school had only an outhouse. Pa recalled how they would have to hold up one finger if they had to “tinkle” and two fingers if they had to poop. Pa smiled as he recalled how he and his friends would always hold up two fingers, because the teacher wouldn’t always let them go if they held up one.  He spent one year in town school, but didn’t like it. It was from the one room schoolhouse that he had the fondest memories, because it was so unique.

The town school Pa went to for a year.

The town school Pa went to for a year.

Punishments at school were different than they are today. In schools today, teachers aren’t allowed to lay a hand on kids. When Pa was in elementary school, it was expected for children to be spanked on the hand with a ruler if they misbehaved. Pa said it was effective because the sharp pain would get kids to behave immediately. This was important to teachers like Pa’s because they were the only teacher in the school. They needed to spend more time on teaching and less time on punishing. With the development of bigger schools and smaller class sizes, teachers began to use other methods of punishment because they had more one on one time with the students.

In the mornings when they didn’t have school, Pa and his siblings would make PB and J sandwiches and high tail it for the creek. Not only was it cooler by the creek, but if they stayed in the house they would have to do chores. Kids those days were less likely to be cooped up inside since there was no air conditioning and no technology to keep them there. Instead of sitting around by themselves watching TV or playing video games, Pa and his siblings would play in the woods next to the farm and down by the creek, doing things like searching for cow patties and flinging them at each other.They would play war, cowboys and Indians, go looking for tadpoles and frogs, play on their stick horses, and chase headless chickens.

Pa and his siblings would chase headless chickens such as the one in this picture.

Pa and his siblings would chase headless chickens such as this one.

Every Saturday, Pa and his family would drive into town. While the grown ups ran errands, the kids would go to the movie theatre to see a show. Pa and his siblings could get in for a quarter each, and they could each get a Coke for a dime and popcorn for fifteen cents. Once they were in, they could spend all afternoon there. There was always a double feature, cartoons, and Movietone News (The news would be similar to the beginning of “Up,” when Carl is in the movie theaters.)

The atmosphere was different from today, especially in small towns like St. James. Everyone knew everyone, like Mayberry in the “Andy Griffith Show.” People would sit on their porches and talk to everyone who passed by. “Your whole world was right there in the town you lived in; that was your world.” Pa explained. “It was so different than the world today. It wasn’t as worldly, but it was clean.”

“Doing drugs” was stealing one of your dad’s cigarettes and smoking it behind the barn. One time, Pa recalls, his dad caught him trying a cigarette when he was five. His dad said, “So, you wanna smoke.” He then made Pa smoke a pipe until he was sick. Pa didn’t smoke again for 20 years.

Pa tried smoking as a child, only to be caught by his father.

Pa tried smoking as a child, only to be caught by his father.

Pa had a childhood much different than those of children today. He had no television, air conditioning, heating, phones, or running water. He lived without the technology common to today. Yet he had experiences that he could not have gotten anywhere else. Pa’s life was not what we today would call ideal, but he said he wouldn’t have had it any other way.


Magnin, Paul. Personal interview. 24 Nov. 2012
St. Jame’s Public School. 2011. Photograph. St. James. Waymarking. 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <>.
Headless Chicken. 1945. Photograph. Jay Noel, 2006. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <>.

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