My Childhood Memories-Page 8
Chapter 13-The Great Depression
My parents told me stories of how difficult times were during the Depression years which lasted through most of the 1930's. My father said that before The Depression, in the 1920's, times were pretty good, jobs were plentiful, and prices for land, houses, farm products and livestock were good, but after the Depression the bottom dropped out and prices for everything plummeted, and you couldn't buy a job. He said that the price for hogs, for instance, dropped to 2 or 3 cents per pound, and other farm products were similarly depressed, and many banks and businesses closed, and many farmers lost their farms.
Fortunately my parents owned their farm, and were able to grow most of the food they needed on their farm. They only owned about 40 acres at the time. The 40 acres were a parcel of land my grandfather Westfall once owned, and joined my grandparent's farm on the East. My Westfall grandparents were still alive at the beginning of the Depression years in 1930, but my grandfather Westfall died on his farm south of Fieldon, IL Dec. 9, 1934. He was 77 at the time of his death.
He was born in West Virginia Feb. 25, 1857. He had been in ill health for several years before his death. The last few months before his death he was unable to get around very good, and was quite weak and confined mostly to bed. He needed someone to help him when he walked. My mother said she went to help my grandmother Westfall take care of him the last month or so of his life. The doctor, Dr. Bert Marion Brewster who had an office in Fieldon, IL at that time, said he thought my grandfather had cancer of the stomach. He suffered from terrible stomach pains.. There were no hospitals nearby. The nearest hospital at that time was 50 miles away in Alton, IL. Doctors made house calls in those days, and most people in rural areas were taken care of by their families in their homes during illness.
After my grandfather Westfall died my grandmother Westfall stayed on the farm, and my father's younger brother Floyd and his wife Bertha stayed with her to help her. My grandmother Westfall died later, just a little more than a year after her husband died. She died Jan. 18, 1936 on her farm there south of Fieldon. She was 67 years old at the time of her death. She was born in West Virginia Nov. 15, 1869.
My grandmother Westfall died of pneumonia. My parent's said my grandmother had a sow who had just given birth to a litter of little pigs, and that during the night a big snowstorm came up, and she was concerned about the sow and little pigs being without enough straw to keep them warm. So she went out in the middle of the night during the snowstorm to put more straw around the sow and little pigs in their shed. In her haste she went outside in the snow barefooted. The next day she became very sick with pneumonia and died a few days later.
After my grandmother Westfall died the estate was settled and the farm sold to T.K. Mathews, and the money divided among the children. Later in about 1941 my father bought my grandparent's farm from Mr. Mathews, and I was born there in 1943.
All through the Depression years, the 1930's, my parents lived on the 40 acres that joined my grandparent's farm. There was only a shallow dug well that was their water supply during those years. It was about a quarter of a mile from their house, and my mother had to draw the water from the well in a bucket attached to a rope and fill water pails which she packed to house for drinking and cooking. They had a pond which supplied water for the livestock. But some of the years during the Depression era were plagued with extreme drought, and the well and pond both went dry my parents said.
When the well went dry my mother said she had to pack water in big 5 gallon buckets for drinking and cooking all the way from the spring on my Westfall grandparent's farm, a distance of a mile or more. My father had to haul water in barrels tied to a sled from my Uncle Jasper's pond to provide water for the livestock. My Uncle Jasper owned a farm next to my parent's farm on the south at that time.
My parent's said they didn't have much money to live on during those Depression years. They cut firewood from the trees on their farm, and hauled the wood in their horse drawn wagon to the grocer in Fieldon, Bob Martin, and exchanged the wood for groceries. Later to supplement their income my father bought a sorghum molassas mill, and raised sorghum cane to make molassas. He employed a number of unemployed men in the area who were out of work because of the Depression to help strip the cane and run the molassas mill. They put the molassas into one gallon tin cans, and my father travelled to many of the surrounding towns to peddle the sorghum molassas.
My only sister Mildred was a little girl of about 8 when the Depression started in 1930. Mildred was born April 20, 1922. I was not born until 1943. My sister is 21 years older than me. My sister went to a little one room school house named the Franklin School about a 2 miles away. My mother had gone to the same school when she was a little girl. During the Depression my sister married Russell Thompson, son of Logan and Viola (Bowers) Thompson, and later after the marriage ended in divorce, my sister returned to her parent's farm home where her son Russell was born August 22, 1937.
Chapter 14-My Birth
My father bought his parent's farm after their death in about 1940 or 1941, and moved there from the 40 acre farm, which my parent's always called "the other place". My father bought the farm from T. K. Mathews who had bought the farm after my father's parents, my Westfall grandparents Jasper and Frances (McCaulley) Westfall had died. Bill Castor and his wife Janie had been renting the farm house and living there prior to my parents buying the farm and moving in. My parents still owned the 40 acre farm for several years more, until later they sold it to my cousin Harold Griffin who was my Aunt Anna's son.
The day I was born, on a Wednesday, June 30, 1943, my father was away working at a rock quarry about 2 miles away. My mother was alone at the time. She went to fetch a bucket of water from the spring which was about a 100 yards from the house. As she was packing the bucket of water back to the house she begin to have labor pains and her water broke.
Fortunately there were neighbors, the Drivers, who lived in a house over by the spring. Mrs. Driver was in the yard and heard my mother cry out. She came to assist my mother and helped her over to the house to lie down in the bedroom. Then she sent one of her boys to run over the hill to the rock quarry to tell my father. It was only about a mile over the hill to the quarry. It was 2 miles or more around by the road.
After her son got to the rock quarry and told my father, then my father phoned our family physician, Dr. J. H. Peisker whose office was in Hardin IL, to come to our farm house. I don't know if the quarry had a phone line then or not. I have forgotten whether my father said he phoned from the quarry or had to drive to Fieldon to call. We had no phone at our house at that time, and none of our neighbors had phones either at that time, I don't think. After my father phoned Doctor Peisker, he came with his nurse, and I was born later that day around noontime or thereabouts, my mother said. My mom said I weighed over 8 pounds at birth. My mother was 39 years old at the time of my birth. My father was 46.
A few years later our neighbors who lived over by the spring, Lester Driver and his wife Stella and their children, moved away and the house there remained vacant as I was growing up, and eventually falling in. I remember playing among the fallen timbers as a child. It was fortunate we had the Drivers as close neighbors at the time of my birth to help my mother.