Christmas in 1945

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Well, it’s almost Christmas time again, one of my favorite times of the year. Seventy years ago, a terrible war had just ended and folks were rejoicing, even though many troops had not yet returned, and hundreds of thousands would never see home again. The thing that makes me sad this year is that our armed forces are still fighting and dying far from home at this season, which is supposed to mean peace and goodwill on earth and, unfortunately, there’s going to be no victory in the foreseeable future.

Wheeler McMillen, editor of Farm Journal magazine wrote in the December 1945 issue: All of us feel better this Christmas. Even those whose sons will not come back have the sad comfort of knowing war is over for their friends’ sons, too.

He went on: If people were sensible, everyone would now forgive everybody else for the sins of the past. All people in all nations would treat others fairly. They would say, “Millions have been killed and hurt. Cities and roads and ships have been destroyed. The world has been made poor. People who once lived happily are dead, or weak, or starving. No one of us is better off. So now, let us live and let live. Let us not quarrel. Let us not fight. Instead we shall be kindly and be happy. We shall work and be well off.”

We all know that the fine words written by Mr. McMillen were nothing more than a forlorn hope, a hope that has never materialized in the intervening seven decades. Men still hate and kill each other with the same intensity as they did during the Second World War, which earned its name by coming barely twenty years after the Great War, or “The War to end all wars.”

O.K., enough doom and gloom. Here are some other tidbits from that long ago Farm Journal magazine.

New machinery in 1945 included one-man, automatic wire tie pick-up balers from John Deere and Minneapolis-Moline, as well as a new PTO-driven forage harvester from Allis-Chalmers, while J.I. Case offered a new low-sided manure spreader and asked “Why lift manure so high to get it into the spreader box?” IH announced the 10 hp Farmall Cub tractor for farms of 40 acres or less, and Ford-Ferguson showed their new jack that attached to the hydraulic arms and lifted the entire tractor off the ground so the wheels could be easily widened or narrowed.

Under the heading, “Changes we want made,” are the following: Equip tractors with hand, as well as foot, clutch control. Make right-hand drive cars for rural mail carriers. Equip washing machines with speed controls for different fabrics. These all came true, with the Allis-Chalmers WD and CA having both hand and foot clutches and Jeep at one time made a right-hand drive version for postal use, while our mail carrier today drives a Grumman-built van with the steering wheel on the right. Today, every automatic washer has a whole dial full of speeds for different fabrics.

And speaking of washing, there’s this hint for housewives who had to put up and take down the clothesline each time. Tie a harness snap to each end of the line and put in heavy screw-eyes where the line is to be attached.

Oscar L. Johnson of Belmont County, Ohio, had a Rhode Island Red/Bantam cross hen named Nettie. She was then 31 years old, and for 28 years had never missed hatching two settings of eggs each year. Three years earlier, while sitting on her nest, Nettie was attacked by a dog that destroyed all her eggs. Mr. Johnson said, “It nearly broke her heart, and she never laid another egg.”

Under “Up in Polly’s Room,” a girl wrote: “Dear Polly. Is it proper for me to write to a boy first?” Polly answered: “There is a rule that says ‘no nice girl writes to a boy first.’” Polly then tells the girl that “ … if she can think of some reasonable excuse for writing …” to go ahead.

A piece of advice that antique tractor collectors should take to heart appeared on the “Farm Topics in Season” page. Broken Arm Department: Don’t hook your thumb around the crank handle in cranking a tractor. Keep thumb and finger on the same side of the handle and pull up on the crank – don’t push down or spin it. Another warning: “Is a ‘gentle bull’ your boast? ‘Tis the ‘gentle bull’ kills most.”

On the joke page is this gem: Teacher says, “Jimmy, name five things that contain milk.” Jimmy replies, “Butter, ice cream, cheese, and – er – um – two cows!”

And my favorite Farm Journal monthly feature.

Pull taffy.
File and set saws.
Sing “Silent Night.”
Buy Christmas seals.
Break foals to halter.
Take farm inventory.
Overhaul the sprayer.
Examine cattle for lice.
Put storm windows on.
Have Dobbin de-botted.
Clean basement windows.
Manure the garden patch.
Sharpen butchering knives.
Give to the Salvation Army.
Put plants in window boxes.
Test butchering tackle ropes.
Put anti-freeze in tractor tires.
Polish silverware for your wife.
Pick out your Christmas turkey.
Ask Mable if she needs a new coat.
Feed cows something better than cornstalks.
Rig a small electric motor to the corn sheller.

I hope you enjoyed these glimpses of the past and that you have a Merry Christmas!

– Sam Moore

A Christmas image from the December 1945 Farm Journal magazine.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
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