It’s summer vacation season! Millions are heading to the beach or the mountains or our nation’s capital to see the sights. Although Disney World and Yellowstone are tried-and-true destinations, many prefer to venture off the main route in search of fascinatingly-kitschy little hidden treasures.
Who wouldn’t want to take a selfie with the World’s Largest Bug or a statue of the Jolly Green Giant? Who needs to puddle hop to visit Stonehenge when we have Foamhenge right here in America? Why not stroll through Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard or look for action along the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail?
For those desiring something a little less wacky, however, there is a small, fully-restored farm located in a nearby rural area. The site includes fields in full summer glory and a quintessential red barn. A rambling farmhouse offers a treasure trove of artifacts from postwar days when a WWII veteran farmed on the halves there, sharing a simple life with his once-aspiring nurse wife and their children.
Perhaps the best place to begin – especially for modern, urban folks – would be that barn. After requisite shots of the building’s weathered exterior, visitors can continue to click away, recording the periodically-whitewashed interior.
Stanchions indicate where members of the farmer’s small herd stood twice daily to be relieved of their creamy fluid by means of milking machines attached to their udders. Also of interest are the secure enclosure for the bull and pens for calves during the separation process from their mothers. Adventuresome visitors might even consider climbing into the haymow to view the bales stacked there, awaiting their use as food and bedding for the resident Holsteins.
The anteroom to the silo, too, is there – the structure jutting skyward, full of ensilage made from corn grown in the fields beyond. A walk through the adjoining milk house reveals the modern bulk tank that replaced the old milk cans.
On every square inch of several out buildings stands equipment used through the seasons of the farmer’s year: plows and planters and harrows to start – controlled by the whim of Mother Nature and her weather – as well as a corn picker and a combine, and the tractors to pull them, for harvest time.
In between, the farmer used the mower, the rake, the baler, and the elevator for his field-to-haymow production process, frequently asking his wife to trade her apron for a straw hat to join him in the field – when the weather conditions cooperated, that is.
On the way to the house, note the pet rabbit’s pen near the yards and yards of clothesline suspended by the maple tree with the old shortening can to collect spring sap still attached. The chicken house stands in the distance.
Once inside the old farmhouse, the back stairway accesses several upstairs bedrooms; downstairs, the tiny bathroom shared eventually by seven people is also on display. It is, however, the two most-used rooms – the living room and kitchen – that are stocked with vintage objects relating to country life in the years before the turn of the century.
The coal stoves in both rooms provided heat, while window screens and the small green table fan aided cross circulation of warm breezes wafting from screen door to screen door.
The comfortable, albeit mismatched, living room furniture provided ample seating, and the child-sized table with four small chairs still serve as a reminder of the children who grew up there. On the large console television, with its dial ready to tune into one of three stations, sits the heavy, black rotary telephone with cords requiring that all phone conversations take place there in the living room.
The refrigerator in the kitchen holds the milk pan the farmer brought straight from the barn each day and the ceramic pitcher to which the milk was transferred as needed. The appliance’s limited freezing compartment held cuts of meat wrapped in white butcher paper and brought from the meat locker in a nearby village. Upon sufficient ice accumulation, the entire refrigerator had to be emptied and defrosted.
The four-burner stove with pot-and-pan storage below had a two-rack oven. In its customary position on the stovetop stands the large teakettle, lime-encrusted from hard well water, that contained boiling water to scald just-washed dishes collected in the dish drainer. Eventually, the modern electric skillet shared frying duties with the faithful, old cast iron skillet. Nearby is the stand mixer with beaters for the mashing of potatoes – and the licking clean of cake batter and frosting.
In this room with its limited counterspace, the kitchen table provided extra work area for food preparation – and homework completion. Along with the ever-present peanut butter and jelly jars, a cut glass butter container with lid and similar holder for toothpicks still stand…
Special Note: Unfortunately, this Scottsonian-like museum, once located on River Road, no longer physically exists. The buildings are long gone as are the lilac bushes and the butternut tree where the tire swing once hung. There is no sidewalk for chalk-drawn hopscotch outlines or hydrant with hose for a good, cold drink of water on a hot summer day. There is no longer a porch swing from which to watch the sun sink spectacularly in the western sky.
However, I would be more than happy to further describe to interested visitors scenes from this humble, little farm – scenes still clear and dear in my mind.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.