Leafing Through an Old Farm Magazine
I like to go through old magazines to see what was going on in the country at the time. Not only that, but if I’m stuck for a subject to write about, I can sometimes find a column (such as this one) in an old magazine. Seventy one years ago, Farm Journal readers, like my father and grandfather (and me as a 13-year-old), saw the following when they leafed through their December 1946 issue of Farm Journal magazine.
Allis-Chalmers looked ahead to summer with a full-color ad featuring a Model C tractor cultivating two rows of contoured, foot-high corn, as did IH with a Farmall M plowing down sod with a 3-bottom Little Genius plow. Willys-Overland touted their Universal Jeep as “a truck, light tractor, runabout, (and) mobile power unit.”
Car-hungry farmers were treated to ads for the shiny new 1946 Buick, Plymouth and Dodge cars, while farm wives were tempted by Westinghouse radios, Pyrex Flameware, Frigidaire and Hotpoint electric refrigerators, Perfection oil heaters, and Gem Dandy electric churns.
Kate Smith, on CBS radio every Monday through Friday at 12 noon CST, advertised Post’s 40% Bran Flakes – “And what could be more delicious Christmas morning than a luscious batch of hot, oven-fresh Post’s Bran Muffins?” Film actress Hedy Lamarr assured us that Lipton Tea’s “… brisk flavor is top drawer with me,” while another Hollywood beauty, Anne Baxter, is shown glamorously snoozing on a Simmons Beautyrest mattress.
Prices being paid for farm products were dropping sharply after initial post-war highs, and FJ told farmers: “You take a grave risk when you hold products on a down market. Sell crops and livestock when ready for market, even though you don’t get the top dollar.”
President Harry Truman wasn’t popular, with an approval rating of 32% and Republicans were joking that “… to err is Truman.” Because of this, the mid-term election of 1946 resulted in Republicans winning control of both the House and Senate after many years of Democrat domination. Farm Journal cautioned: “May the Republicans travel humbly on their way to Washington! They have won, not a victory, but a chance to try to give the nation better government. Tired of New Dealism, the people have merely said, ‘let’s see what the other fellows can do.'”
Among the featured movies was My Darling Clementine, a western about the Earp brothers starring Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Walter Brennan and Victor Mature. Then there was Blondie Knows Best, with Penny Singleton as Blondie and Arthur Lake as Dagwood.
The Gillette Safety Razor Company – Look sharp! Feel sharp! Be sharp! – bragged about the smooth, refreshing shaves that Dewitt “Tex” Coulter, “… last year’s great Army tackle, now with the New York Giants,” got before he went on the field in a leather helmet to “anticipate enemy plays and stop them with uncanny precision.”
In another ad, Santa Claus himself assured readers that a carton of Camel cigarettes or a one-pound tin of Prince Albert smoking tobacco were “Grand gifts for smokers.”
Feature articles reported on a new sweet potato variety called Pelican Processor, New York governor Thomas Dewey’s dairy farm, how to “Lick Pullorum (a chicken disease) Now,” and hunting pheasants in South Dakota.
A new self-propelled, 2-row corn picker, that could pick 20 to 30 acres per day, was announced by Massey-Harris, as “A machine that electrocutes weeds,” from Apco Corp., of Los Angeles. Apco made a large trailer-mounted generator that powered a series of rake-like electrodes that were dragged across the ground, zapping 10 to 15 acres of weeds per day.
Speaking of weeds, FJ reported a “New source of income for Georgia farmers is growing kudzu crowns. With a ready market, some farmers sold as high as $10,000 worth of crowns (at $10 to $12 per 1,000) last spring.” Today they can’t get rid of the pesky stuff.
Under Changes We Want Made, are the following bright ideas. “Pack grease for pressure guns in cylindrical containers that can be slipped into the gun.” This one came true, as did “Use flexible tubing to connect gas ranges, so they may be moved for cleaning.” One man wanted “something to show hunters when a rabbit was close,” while another guy wanted “square plates so we can back a pea into a corner.”
In the Farmer’s Wife section, recipes were given for a grand Christmas dinner that included steam-baked goose, delicious bread stuffing, Noel apples, and Christmas beet salad, as well as recipes for holiday cookies and frozen fruit cake.
A young girl wrote Dear Polly: “Last Christmas Eve, I was out with a boy whom I liked very much, and he asked me for a Christmas kiss. If it happens again, what should I do?” Polly answered that there’s something about Christmas that “sometimes permits a holiday kiss for a special friend.” She goes on: “If you step under the mistletoe, there’s nothing much left to do but give in gracefully.”
Finally, my favorite Farm Journal feature: Now Is The Time To.
Let it snow.
Post your farm.
Read Psalm 100.
Keep an open mind.
Use Christmas seals.
Clean up junk piles.
Clip old boar’s tusks.
Poison orchard mice.
Renew kitchen linoleum.
Cut next year’s firewood.
Cover carrots with straw.
Help Fido with his fleas.
Count the days until Christmas.
Rabbit-proof young trees, shrubs.
Count your blessings; share them.
Keep machine sheds sparrow-free.
Put a petunia in the south window.
Ask the preacher if he likes chicken.
Encourage 4-H and F.F.A. members.
Clean leaves from rain spouts and gutters.
Put a new pane of glass in place of that pillow in the attic window.
Looking through these old magazines reminds me of the old song: “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
– Sam Moore
Cover of the December 1946 Farm Journal magazine (in the author’s collection).
Read this charming and humorous vignette from William Livingstone Alden’s The Adventures of Jimmy Brown, about Victorian-era Christmas antics.
A Long Overlooked Part of Farming Lore
The author spends time remembering the days when Bull Durham and Prince Albert tobacco were farm staples.
Farming with Horses
Check out the history behind horse-powered farm implements, how they replaced manpower, and how their way of life started to end.