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Happy Thought: 1940

Happy Thought: 1940

September 1940. "Mrs. Garland and her little boy. Family lives in the submarginal farm area of Rumsey Hill, near Erin, New York." Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Mrs. Helen Struble Garland, age 31

This is most likely Helen Garland and her 3-year old son Chauncey. Per the 1940 census, Helen lived with her husband Clarence and five young sons in Van Etten, NY, where her husband worked as a woodcutter. Helen and Clarence both lived into their eighties.

Re: Give me gas (stove that is)

I have had many conversations as a curious teen, and even more curious adult with my grandparents, as well as my husband's Indiana farmer grandparents of German farm family roots over the last 40 years. In those conversations, I discovered that due to not only the Great Depression, but general farm family economics, combining a lifetime of thrifty farming ways, plus the aforementioned Depression, AND WWII, they just lived that way, because that's the way things were. While "the men" - meaning the grandfather and any uncles that remained to follow in their father's footsteps - ruled the roost regarding not only farm operations, but economic ones as well. Grandmothers - mothers at that time, of course - ruled the home, and all operations taking place inside it, but only to the point where the economy would allow. The furnishing of the kitchen, the sewing room, the canning storage, water supply, and other utilities were ruled by the amount of money available coming from the economies of the farm operations, which always came first. If electricity were to be furnished to the property, it came to benefit the running of the farm first, and then the house IF there was enough left over to do so. So, the harder the men worked, and the more money that came from those efforts, the more everyone would benefit. Updating the features of the farm home was practically impossible not only during depression times, as there was no money to do so, until the Federal government and the FSA began getting involved in helping farm families pull themselves out of the Great mire they found themselves buried in during the very late thirties.

But, it all came to a halt during the War years, because even though there was more money in the bank finally, there was little to nothing to buy! Restrictions, rationing and priorities on metals reduced new farm equipment to absolute minimums, if not down to nothing to be had at all. Even repair parts were almost impossible to come by. Same for tractor tires, truck tires, wagon tires, even bicycle tires! So many farm families lived miles and miles "from town" they had difficulty getting there to buy anything, if there was anything to buy. Going to the local co-op for seed, feed, and fertilizers - also difficult to get in needed quantities - was about as close to shopping as many farmers or their wives would get for years.

My husband's grandmother never learned to drive, and she was relegated to sending a list with grandpa to get the things she needed, so she had to depend on him entirely for several years to get her shopping done. The only time she left the house for years was to go to church down the road about two miles on Sunday mornings. Sometimes she would be able to send mail orders in from her Sears catalogs, if they had what she wanted for the money she had to spend. She had three sons and one daughter, born in a period of 36 months from the birth of the first to the last, all by C-sections, in the mid-30's, so those trips to the hospital were also rare outings! And extended rests, with other local church acquaintance farm wives coming to help her out for the first few weeks after each one came. Cloth diapers were washed daily in a bucket, rinsed twice in the wash tub, run through the wringer, and hung on the line in the sun to dry. Laundry wasn't just a Monday only job, with farmer's overalls getting filthy on a daily basis. Nobody had a week's worth of clothing to get from Monday to Sunday.

Gasoline restrictions and rationing certainly didn't help that, as you didn't get far on three gallons per week. Gasoline meant for farm equipment only had been colored with a red dye, and if you were found to be running farm gas in your automobile, there was severe fines that could be levied. So, keeping things running, and fixing instead of replacing were the rules of the day all during the War years as well. Once all those restrictions, rationing, priorities, etc., were over with, it wasn't so easy to just start throwing things out and buying new. Not when you had been doing things that way practically all your life.

The Stove That Made Pittston Famous

Founded in 1869, the Pittston Stove Company's business took off after 1873, when Samuel Smythe, an engineering pioneer with 25 patents, designed a duplex grate, which became an industry standard.

The company shipped $175,000 worth of stoves in 1917, the equivalent of $3.2 million today. The one shown in this ad has much fancier ironwork but the components are similar the Garland family's version.

Shorpy Stove

Nice placement.

Give me gas (stove that is)

The stove was a critical appliance. My family were from the anthracite region in northeastern Pennsylvania. My aunt had a coal stove. It had to be kept burning all year round. It was a pain to re-light so extended trips from home were few. In addition to cooking, it was the primary source of heat and hot water. There were metal grates in the floors upstairs to let the heat rise up in the winter. For really cold days she had a second coal heater in the "parlor," as she called it. She had this setup until she had to move into a "home."

Maybe the result of living through the Depression, but my family never updated anything without good reason. Things were used until they broke and couldn't be repaired.

Close your mouth, you'll catch a fly.

That's what my old dad would tell me when my mouth was hanging open like this young lad's.

Threshing, heat, and canning

That big stove is probably for a bunch of reasons, starting with the fact it was probably a main source of heat for the home. It also would come in handy for not only threshing season, but also canning, preserving, boiling down maple syrup, baking bread & pies, and even heating water for doing laundry. It's impressive how much oven you can use when you're doing all that.

Shoe problem

Mr. Delano must have shown up when no one was ready. Maybe scurrying around to get their shoes on. The little boy either didn’t get both shoe on on decided he didn’t want to wear two shoes. Mother simply didn’t have time to tie her shoes, I suppose. Anyway, that is quite a remarkable stove!

[That's a baby shoe. Our young lad has both shoes on. - Dave]

Lots of Pots

That stove looks huge and can accommodate so many pots but I guess once you made the fire, you had to cook everything at once instead of making things one after another. Perhaps she had a large family (or planned to) and this was a wise purchase.

Another thought -- during harvest season my grandparents would hire threshers to come in and harvest everything in a short period of time. The farm wife was responsible for feeding them. This probably came in handy if used for those times too.

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