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Gardening: More than just a Pastime

rationing posterAt the time of my grandfather Dennis Gilbert’s childhood, World War II was just beginning, and sacrifices had to be made by civilians like him in order to support America’s troops. On top of various materials and tools, such as tires and gasoline, food had to be rationed so that sufficient supplies could be sent to soldiers who were fighting overseas. Although these rations were not debilitating, families usually had little, if any, extra food. Small family gardens were perfect solutions to this food problem. My grandfather assured me that his family would have been fine even if they had not planted a garden each year. Their gardens were simply used to supplement their stores of food. He went on to tell me that their garden produced delicious fresh vegetables that were difficult to obtain in any other way. Because they were such wise investments, family gardens were fairly common during this time. They were small and could be managed by a small team, yet they still produced a fair harvest each year.retired-man-cultivating-plants

Gardens, profitable as they were, required much effort to maintain. Pests, weeds, and disease had to be combated constantly. In addition, the ground had to be marked out, tilled, cultivated, and fertilized on a regular basis. To make matters worse, this work had to be done manually unless expensive farm equipment was available. As a child, my grandfather had to turn the dirt of his family’s garden with a pitchfork, and he and his mom had to cultivate the ground with a hoe before planting. His father was unable to help them, as he worked twelve hour days, six days a week.

Victory Garden

These struggles didn’t stop families from gardening, however! In fact, according to my grandfather, the ratio of agriculture- related professions to more urban, technology- focused professions was 50-50. As my grandfather said, “I enjoyed getting out there in the garden and working.” He also told me that his ancestors were farmers, and that “farming was in our blood. … I inherited that.”Part of small time gardening’s success came from the efforts of the national government, which helped convince people to garden. It glorified these gardens, deeming them “Victory Gardens” because they allowed for a greater amount of supplies to be shipped to soldiers fighting in WWII. In my grandfather’s family, young children did not work on the gardens. As he grew up, however, he began to take on most of the gardening responsibility, and all of the hard labor went to him, while his mother helped out in other areas. Fortunately for him, his family moved to Connecticut when he was in high school, and a neighbor named Mr. Knapp helped plow the garden with his tractor. In addition, my grandfather’s dad got a machine called a rototiller, which dramatically helped him till the ground. These machines made work much easier, and they increased the size and productivity of his family’s garden.


Such help as that which my grandfather’s family received was not uncommon. In fact, families in the same neighborhood usually helped each other out when another was going through a tough time. For example, if a family was too sick to work, or if someone in that family was injured, their neighbors would work the garden until they recovered. Families also shared their harvests, and the elderly, especially, were given produce often. Only a few varieties of crops were planted by each family in my grandfather’s neighborhood, so families would trade surplus produce. My grandfather’s neighbors were very fond of growing zucchini, and they gave their extra stores of it to his family. There were a few staple crops that almost everyone grew. These included tomatoes, squash, green beans, corn, cucumbers, beets, bell peppers, and radishes.


After considering common issues in today’s society, my grandfather told me that he feels every family should have a garden. He then continued to tell me that if family members worked together on such a project, they would develop a closer bond with each Gardens have greatly affected Missouri. Cities, communities, and even individuals are different as a result of it.  This lifestyle has become a part of our heritage, and as long as there is a single gardener in Missouri, it will always be important.  Regardless of how it is conducted, gardening will always play a role in shaping our culture.other. He also explained that young children would come to develop an understanding and appreciation for gardening and hoped that they would eventually begin a similar project with their own families, continuing the cycle.  He concluded, “There’s just something about going out and picking garden-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, or green beans. There’s a sense of accomplishment. It would help teach responsibility to children.” He told me that it is easy to get into gardening, and that there is a variety of gardens that can be grown, such as flower and vegetable gardens.




Gilbert, Dennis.  Personal interview.  24 Nov. 2012

“Victory Garden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

Berger, David. “Country Lore: Homemade Rototiller.” Mother Earth News. N.p., Apr.-May 2007. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

“Retired Man Cultivating Plants.” 123RF Stock Photos. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

Stambaugh, Liz. “How Personal Recycling Can Help Your Garden And Wallet.”Examiner.com. N.p., 10 Mar. 2009. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

Selasa. “Guide Food Travel.” : WWII Rationing: Golden Barley Soup and Mock Duck. N.p., 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.

Growing Up In Missouri


Linda Rasmussen grew up on a farm in Missouri. She lived in McDonald County until 1958, when her parents bought the property east of Neosho, where she still lives today. It is where the old county “poor farm” used to be, but it was just a normal farm when Linda and her family moved there. Before America had welfare, individual counties had a “poor farm” and were  saddled with the cost of providing care for their poor, their elderly, and many of those with mental illnesses. There is a cemetery in the field of what was once the “poor farm,” but there are no gravestones. Several outbuildings are still on the property.

The “poor farm” used to consist of a twenty-five-room house that was built on the property in the late 1800s. The farm closed around 1950 or 1951, and the house was later torn down. Linda’s father then built the house where she and her family lived. As a kid growing up on the property, Linda always had something to explore.

Even though Linda grew up on a farm, she wasn’t much of a farm girl. Her dad, Dewey, did most of the work. She says that when she helped she mostly got in the way and slowed down his routine. Linda’s favorite thing about living on a farm was the summer haying weather. She got to watch the teenage boys that were on hay hauling crews as they put the hay up into the barn. Besides raising hay, the family also raised cattle on the farm. It wasn’t like today’s big dairy farm operations, but her father did have automatic milkers. The cows had to be milked twice daily. The milkman came daily or every other day and took the cans of milk off for processing. One cow thought that she was a pet–her name was Pansy–and she would follow Dewey everywhere he went. Pansy would even let kids ride her. Linda didn’t really like chickens, but she had a pet chicken named Penny.
When Linda was about six or seven she would go down to the wash-house. She didn’t do much at the wash house, but she liked going down there because she got to hang out with other kids her age. One time in particular, she went down in her little brown coat and matching hat. She was playing outside with some other children when a rooster came running at her. The rooster attacked her and pecked her in the head over and over again. He knocked her little brown hat right off. Some parents came out to see what all the screaming was about, and a man kicked the rooster off of my grandmother. A women scooped her up and rushed her into the house. Linda still remembers lying in her mother’s lap, her blood dripping into the Enamelware dishpan, like it was yesterday. It was a bad day for Linda, but it was also a bad day for the rooster. For dinner that night the family had a big pot of fresh rooster and dumplings.
Linda sewed a lot of her own clothes. She learned to sew at a very early age and was very good at it. She made most of her clothes, as did many girls.  During the mid 60s, “pegged” leg jeans were the style. They are what we would call “skinny jeans.” Even though they didn’t have skinny jeans like we do today, they had to peg their jeans on the sides to make them so skinny they could barely pull them on. To make the jeans even more skinny, they would sit in a bathtub full of water to get them wet, then they would get out and let them dry on their bodies. Linda had it down to a science, and she used to be known for having the skinniest jeans in school.

Linda had two brothers. Since she was the only girl, she wasn’t expected to do as much work as the boys. Although she didn’t do as much farm work, she still learned how to work and she learned morals. She knows the sacrifices that her parents made for the family. Unlike many of the youth today, she was taught that food doesn’t magically appear on the shelves of Wal-Mart. Linda was taught that we need to be grateful for farmers.

When Linda was growing up, most kids didn’t have their own car and didn’t expect one. They drove their parents’ cars. A lot of the boys had jobs working on farms, grocery stores, and feed stores. A few girls had babysitting jobs, but most didn’t work. Linda was never allowed to work when she was younger: “I suppose that was a means of control, but mostly it was due to a high school girl named Cathy. She worked as a carhop at a hamburger joint and my dad said I wasn’t going to work at a place like that and get the reputation she had with boys.” Linda got her first job when she was older, during the summer between her Junior and Senior year. She babysat two boys for $20.00 a week.

Today is a lot different from when Linda grew up. They didn’t have cell phones. In fact, almost everyone had party line home phones. That means they had to share the telephone line with several of their neighbors. They would pick up the phone to use it and someone might already be on it. Or they’d be talking to their friend and the nosey, grumpy old neighbor down the road would either listen in on their conversation or tell them to get off. They didn’t have computers either. People heard rumors about computers as big as a house, owned by government entities, and how they would take over the world. Computers were something to fear. The first television that Linda’s family bought was black and white only. The family didn’t have colored televisions until Linda was in junior high. When she was really young and living in Pineville, they only had two stations. They got ABC and NBC, and that’s if they were lucky!

Microwave ovens were something that no one could have ever imagined. “To be able to cook a baked potato in a matter of a few minutes… impossible!” She didn’t grow up with air conditioning, either. The family got their first window air conditioner when Linda was in high school. Dishwashers were new, too. Linda was the dishwasher until she was in high school when the family got their first real dishwasher. She still had to pre-wash everything before putting it in the dishwasher. Growing up, they had metal ice trays. The kind that had a lever that they had to pull to break the ice into cubes. Linda hated those metal ice trays. “Sometimes, if your fingers were at all wet when you were trying to get the ice out, your fingers would stick to the metal and it hurt!” Ice was something that they pretty much rationed. “I’m sure there’s some other things that I didn’t have growing up that I have now, but I wouldn’t trade the era in which I grew up for anything!” declares Linda.

Linda grew up right here in Missouri on a farm in Neosho, the only girl of three kids. Even though she wasn’t much of a farm girl, she still learned good farm work ethics. The times are a lot different now than when Linda grew up. Her childhood was very interesting, and she said she wouldn’t trade it for the world. My grandmother loved growing up in Missouri in the ‘50s and the ‘60s.

Growing up a Preacher’s Kid

Old Peach Tree

Sharon Morris was the daughter of Everett and Mary Coleman. In 1928, her family donated land to the community where a church and schoolhouse were built. The church was called Peach Tree General Baptist Church, and it is still running today in the small town of Piedmont, Missouri. Everett and Mary lived on a farm with their six children, five boys and one girl. Everett worked at Brown Shoe Factory and was a preacher. Mary was a homemaker.

Although there were advantages and disadvantages to being a preacher’s kid, Morris said they still didn’t mind it. “It wasn’t bad. I can remember traveling to and from different churches in the car with a whole load of brothers.” However, she feels she was sometimes treated differently because of her father’s occupation.“Some of the popular girls would laugh about it. My closest friends didn’t.” Morris says that sometimes her life was different than her friends.  “My parents were always strict and I never got to go to school dances; that bothered me then.”

Sharon married Larry Morris and they raised two kids. She hopes that she has taught her children many things that she learned from her parents. “I wanted my kids to be able to participate in the sports and school activities that I couldn’t, but I do appreciateThe New Peach Tree growing up knowing I was loved and was taught values. These I tried to pass on to my children.”

Recalling memories from her childhood–some good, some not so good–Morris stated that “the worst I can remember was coming home in a bad snowstorm and wondering if we would make it. And then there was the time my dad hit a mule on the road on the way to church. We did go on to church, I believe.”

Morris now has four grandchildren with whom she is very close. How she was raised affected the way she raised her children and the way they are raising their children. She hopes her grandchildren will “be honest and work hard and love God.”

Though many kids have grown up as a preacher’s kid, Morris recognizes that the times have changed tremendously. “I think as a preacher’s kid now, they aren’t as strict and it is a lot easier to be in school activities.”

Many things have changed since the 1920s-1930s, but according to Morris the life of a preacher’s kid has stayed virtually the same.

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