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Choking the Chicken: 1943

Choking the Chicken: 1943

August 1943. "Middle River, Md. Farm Security Administration housing for Glenn L. Martin aircraft plant workers" is the general caption for this group of photos by John Collier. Unfortunately there are no specifics as to what exactly is going on here. Comments now open for alternate-title suggestions. View full size.


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No Irony Here

I like tommydo's sense of humor, but those are not Curtiss trailers. Each one is a 1941 Silvermoon Model 7000 (later Model 70) made by the Alma Trailer Company in Alma, Michigan. Their color was olive drab green and gray, and both the two and the four-person versions rented for $6.50 a week

The company started in 1930 when two brothers and an engineer built a hunting trailer for themselves, which attracted the attention of other hunters. Soon after a company was formed and they became busy enough to move into an abandoned Republic Truck factory. When an investor gained a majority of the stock in 1937, the original three left and started the Redman Trailer Company (named after the two brothers). They called their competing product the New Moon, and they set up shop directly across the street in an old Libby's pickle canning plant. Sales took off when they began offering a trailer that was significantly longer than others in the market.

Both Alma and Redman (along with others) supplied the Farm Services Administration with housing (Silvermoons and New Moons, respectively) during the military build-up before the United States entered WWII. Redman also supplied military trailers and hospital units during the war. By 1944 the Redman Company had completed their war contracts and were being allowed to once again build and sell a few of their trailers—but only to workers engaged in the war effort.


After the war both companies experienced a sales boom, with Alma Trailer Company peaking a few years later. In 1952 Alma began to lose money and continued to do so until production ceased around 1960, while Redman went on to greater fame and fortune by switching from trailers to mobile homes. In 1953 The Long, Long Trailer hit the big screen and became MGM's biggest comedy up to that time, while the New Moon Mobile Home featured in the movie became a best seller.

Now headquartered in Dallas and known as Redman Homes, they are the second largest builder of manufactured housing in the country.

Killing humanely

Fried chicken on the dinner table requires several preliminary steps. Hanging the chicken upside down calms it considerably before the incision as blood rushes to its head, and allows it to bleed out as quickly as possible. In the hands of a skilled butcher the death of the chicken is humane because it is virtually instantaneous.

Were these the good old days

As mentioned by PopCollector I have often seen my Mother kill a chicken by wringing its neck and letting it flop on the ground to bleed out. In the 40's ( maybe early 50's ) our local grocery store bought live chickens from local farmers. The store would truss the chickens up by their feet and have them hanging upside down on a rack in the storeroom. A customer could go back to the storeroom and pick out a chicken to take home where the chicken would be dispatched, dipped in very hot water, plucked, gutted, dismembered, and cooked. Mom could sure cook up some good fried chicken but I sure wouldn't want to go that route myself. Give me something already cut up in a plastic wrap to cook.

Killing the Chicken

One of the most interesting things my brother and I were privileged to behold when we spent a few weeks with Grandma in small-town Southern Illinois in the late 1950's, was the killing of chickens in precisely this way. The lady across the street raised chickens in her back yard and about once a week would dispatch a fair number of them all at once, probably to sell. She would tie up about 3 hens per bunch and then hang up 4 or 5 bunches on her clothes line. Then she would take a big knife, grab the heads and cut them off. We were very impressed since we lived in a medium-sized town in Michigan where no such thing could be imagined. Chickens for us were wrapped in plastic - nice and neat. This picture brought back a wonderful memory. What's the matter with me?

Pumping gas

Back in the 50's I had a part time job at a Marathon gas station and the boss made me wear my belt on the side or tuck a shop rag over it to eliminate scratches on customer cars when checking oil or cleaning windshields. Yeah,,,,we really did that folks!

Buckles to the side

My contemporaries and I in our pre-teen and early teen years were wearing our buckles this way, especially for what we called "garrison belts", in the 1950s. This for some of the same reasons cited, but we thought it was just being "cool", like rolling up the bottom of our dungarees six inches. Mom always bought 'em too long so we could grow into them.

More on Buckle Placement

Buckle to the side keeps him from scratching the back of his guitar while playing in local rockabilly band.


My mother used to tell me of a slightly more gruesome method her mother (Grandma) had of just picking up the chicken by the head and spinning it around a couple of times until the head twisted off. Of course the chicken would run around a bit without its head. This story terrified me as a kid.

Standard operating procedure

He isn't "choking" the chicken, he is in process of cutting its head off! This was a standard way of butchering chickens in the South while I was growing up. I can recall many times that my mother butchered a half dozen chickens by tying their feet together, hanging them from the clothesline, taking their heads off with a very sharp butcher knife, and running like hell to keep from getting spattered with the blood that flew around while the chicken flapped as it bled out. Basically it was/is a very clean way of butchering chickens, as they bleed out quickly.

Fashion Follows Form

My dad always wore his buckle to the side, and explained to me that he wore it that way so as not to scratch the fender when working on his car. (fenders were big obstacles to engine access in the 30's and 40's)

So; to paraphrase jimboylan's comment below - which inspired mine - "Dad wore his belt buckle to the side so it wouldn't scratch the fenders."(!)

Dressed for the occasion

He wears his belt buckle to the side so it won't catch on the feathers.

[Buckling to the side was evidently a thing back in the 1930s and '40s -- See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. - Dave]

Any trailer aficionados?

My guess is they are Curtis, but it is just a guess based on the aircraft factory theme.

Loser, Winner, Chicken Dinner

The days when "fresh" was not signage over an aisle of the grocery store.

Tomatoes on the side

Tomato plants in the background are bearing nicely. Except for the trailers, this could be my Grandmother’s West Virginia back yard in the 1930s-40s.

Bad Day at Barred Rock

It appears to me that the gentleman is using a commonly used method to dispatch his Barred Rock hen - secure the feet to a clothesline to immobilize the bird then either slit the throat or cut the head off. The bird will flop briefly then bleed out cleanly.

It's what's for dinner

It looks to me like they are having pheasant for dinner. Or maybe it's a game hen.

Well --

What would you do if your turkey got wet?


because it's just so obvious - "Choking the Chicken"

[Since this does indeed seem to be a chicken (of the Barred Rock variety), we are changing the title from "Trussing the Turkey" forthwith. - Dave]

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