The January, 1945 issue of Farm Journal magazine offered $5 for each idea that readers sent in for changes in equipment they’d like to see made after the war when things were promised to be much better. Some of the ideas submitted and published through the rest of the year are listed below. After each is my estimation of how much improvement has been made during the past seven decades.
- Put grain drills on low wheels so I don’t have to lift up every sack of seed or fertilizer. Success! Not long after this suggestion appeared, implement manufacturers began to put grain drills on low, rubber-tired wheels, while today’s seed and fertilizer caddies and auger carts have made lifting and dumping those sacks a thing of the past.
- Make comfortable, durable, washable farmers’ clothing like the fatigue coveralls I wore in the Army. Success! Modern fabrics and insulating materials have made possible comfortable, lightweight, long-wearing clothing that is warm in winter and cool in summer.
- Make a waterproof, dust-proof cushioned seat like those on a jeep for farm implements. I’m tired of padding the metal fluted seats with gunny sacks and sheepskins that keep sliding off or getting wet. Success! Today’s tractors not only have padded seats, backs and armrests, but they’re adjustable up, down, backwards, and forwards. Then there are climate-conditioned cabs, too.
- Make tractor and implement seats adjustable for tall and short people. Success! See the preceding item.
- Have fewer sizes of nuts and bolts. No way! Now they’ve even thrown metric sizes into the mix.
- Settle on one place for the watch and pencil pockets on all bib overalls. I don’t believe this one ever happened.
- Attach tubes to hard-to-get-at grease fittings on machinery. Success! Most modern machines have tubes running from inaccessible fittings out to a central location where the grease gun can be easily applied. I’ve often cussed the engineers who designed machines after practically standing on my head to get a grease gun nozzle on a fitting, only to have it pop back off or to be on crooked with the first stroke of the gun lever shooting grease everywhere but into the bearing.
- Equip all tractors with fuel gauges. Success! I doubt there’s a tractor made today that doesn’t have a fuel gauge. I can, however, sympathize with the writer; it’s a long trudge carrying a five-gallon can of gas from the barn out to the farthest field where your tractor died because you forgot to fill up at noon.
- Equip milking machines with automatic suction shut-offs when the cow is milked. Success! This one was fixed long ago.
- Design self-powered machinery for one interchangeable motor. Success! In 1951 Minneapolis-Moline introduced the Uni-Tractor, a three-wheeled power unit upon which could be mounted the Uni-Harvester combine, the Uni-Forager forage harvester, the Uni-Baler hay baler, and the Uni-Picker corn picker.
- Invent a milk stool that will hold the pail for us fat folks. I don’t know about this one but I doubt if it ever happened. I’ll bet it’d be tough to even find a milking stool on a modern dairy today.
- Put handles on egg cases. Success! While the 30-dozen wooden egg crates we used when I was a kid didn’t have actual handles, there was a one by two inch board across the top of each end that doubled as a handle. Today, eggs are shipped in 30-dozen cardboard cases that have a cutout oval hand-grip at each end.
- Equip tractors with hand, as well as foot clutch controls for when the tractor is used as a stationary power unit. Success (in a way)! In 1948 Allis-Chalmers introduced the Model WD tractor that featured a foot clutch to stop the tractor and the PTO both, while a hand clutch stopped only the tractor’s forward movement. This isn’t quite what the writer envisioned as he wanted a hand clutch to control the belt pulley (I think).
- Standardize milk cans so covers will be interchangeable. I don’t think this ever happened, although today’s requirements for milk bulk tanks have made this one obsolete.
- Make right-hand drive cars for rural mail carriers. Success! During the 1960s and ‘70s Jeep made special right-hand drive Jeeps for the U.S. Postal Service that were used on rural mail routes and our present carrier drives a RHD U.S. Postal van. There are also companies that make kits to convert left-hand drive cars to right-hand drive. Our last mail lady had such a conversion in her Ford Focus before she retired.
- Sell work gloves separately for either hand. Never happened! If one glove wears out you still must buy a new pair.
- Put a gauge on trucks to show the weight of the load. Success! With the air suspension used today on trucks and trailers, it’s a simple matter to correlate the amount of air necessary to suspend the load with the load weight, and to furnish a read out in the truck cab that gives the driver not only total weight, but the weight on each axle as well.
Farm women were invited to participate as well, and their ideas were:
- Use waist, chest and inseam measurements for children’s clothes instead of arbitrary age sizes. This didn’t happen, although I believe it is improved. Kid’s clothing sizes are still given as age numbers but there are charts available to translate these numbers into actual measurements.
- Put casters on refrigerators so they can be easily moved. Success! I’m not sure all refrigerators have wheels, but I know ours does.
- Make oversize clothespins to hold rugs on clotheslines. I don’t think this ever happened, but who hangs rugs on clotheslines anymore?
- Make a folding high chair for visiting purposes. Success! There are lots of folding high chairs available.
- Equip electric washing machines with speed controls for different fabrics. Success! I hope the lady who submitted this proposed change lived long enough to use an automatic washer with tons of knobs to change speed, water temperature, and other features.
So, let me know what you think of my estimates of the improvements that have been made because (or maybe in spite of) these 1945 suggestions.