Memories of Florence, Nebraska
by Everett E. Forrest
At age of 6 (1915)
Everett E. Forrest. Brothers Leslie L. Forrest age 4, Ralph R. Forrest age 2. We lived on a truck garden farm on south side of large flowing creek south of Forest Lawn Cemetery. Neighbors Burcamp and Hollys were also gardeners. Pulled, bunched, and hauled vegetables to city (Omaha, NE) open market square. The gardeners would pull in at 4 and 5 a.m. with teams and wagons to sell vegetables. Return home at mid-day to hoe and cultivate more crops. We also had chickens, geese, ducks, pigs, and a cow besides team horses to care for. Mother drove a buggy mare to Florence, NE to buy groceries about six miles away.
Mother and Father were hard workers. Father was the bread winner. Mother was the one that held the home and family together. Our father used to say, Whatever you think of me, never be unkind to your mother. But for her, you would never be here. Mother did the wash on a rippled metal wash board in a tub of water. She would rub the clothes with a bar of hard soap and scrub out the dirt. How many women would do that today? In addition to laundry and canning, she baked her own bread, sewed clothes, made soap, rendered lard, and ironed with an iron heated on top the wood stove. No wonder women died young.
I was the eldest of the family Grandmother Taylor lived with the family for a time. As I look back at the old days and see the advance strides of this time I think Grandmother, if you were here now you would not believe your eyes.
Harinton & Helfrich Grocery Store were the home owned kind. Cookies and crackers were in large open wooden barrels to be weighed. Coffee mill hand turned would grind coffee beans you selected. Meat at store was hung in the freezer in whole pieces you could choose your cuts from the butcher. Candy and nuts were in wood five gallon buckets you could buy by pound or bucket. At the grocery store also was sold bolts of cloth and all types of clothing shoes, overshoes, husking mitts, and gloves.
I remember around 1915 Ford Model Ts were sold. People would have flat tires. Cars would stall. My father had a tool kit and hand pump. He would walk out to patch tubes and hand pump up tires also other minor repairs to start engine.
When we went to Omaha seven miles away we rode an electric trolley car which ran on tracks. For 10 cents each way. We did some shopping in Omaha, but mostly all in Florence. As I grew older I would hunt the fields and timberland for game. Brothers and I learned to swim in the Missouri river.
We grew to a family of seven boys and one sister. Mother died at an early age. Times were rough. The terrible depression was on. Banks and loan companies went broke. People lost everything. Homes, farms, money and to top it all off we had a three year drought. It became a dust bowl land. Nothing could grow. Hot south winds would burn the skin. Dust so thick it would darken the sky as if it were going to rain. Then the dust would come from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Humans and livestock died from lack of food and water, and from air pollution.
To top it all off we had a President from Iowa named Hover that harped Hoverize while he grew fatter by the hour. His big fat jowls hung like a fat hogs. I look back and wonder How did we ever survive all those things that came?
Winters were harsh with cold deep snows. Temperature 10 to 22 below zero. Snow would ice over until you could walk over the barb wire fences. Homes were poor at night. The stoves would go out. The water pail in the house would freeze solid ice. Each morning the stoves would be kindled and fire started. It would be so cold in the house you could see your breath. Eyelashes would freeze shut. I have seen snow sift on the floor around doors and window openings. Chickens, ducks and geese with frozen feet. In the hen house their combs and feet would freeze off. Pig's slop was kept in steel drums and a fire was lit to melt it for feeding. Troughs were beaten to free the ice before feeding.
I remember my Dad overhauled the Model T car just before the 4th of July 1925. Mom had planned a 4th outing for us. Dad jacked up the rear wheel and started cranking. All it did was POP BANG, POP BANG. The children said to Dad, Are we on a 4th of July Trip? Tomorrow, Dad said, Looks like we are going to have 4th of July here Crank, POP BANG, POP BANG.
It was a three mile hike to and from school. Winter, summer, snow or rain. We had an old wood stove to heat the single room. A water pail for all to drink from. Each child had a tin cup hung on a nail to drink from the pail. Every other day two would be chosen to carry water and wood for the one room school. The teacher sat in the front of the room with a large black board and chalk to write with. She taught first grade through eight. She would room with one of the farm families. The boys and girls wore long stockings. High top button shoes. Boys wore knee length button below the knee pants with suspenders and long sleeve shirts. Girls wore long dresses. Girls hair styles was long most all wore braids. Boys hair was cut short.
We were taught honesty was the best policy. We were also respected by our neighbors. Our word was our bond. One who would break his word was not tolerated in the neighborhood.
I remember at the Old Florence School in 1916 the teachers would have us children cut up small scraps of cloth to make pillow and mattress stuffing for the soldiers Army Hospital beds.
I quit school when I was in 4th grade. I was reprimanded by the lady teacher. She made me stand at the front of the room while she whipped me with a small cane. When she finished, I turned around and kicked her in the shin, as hard as I could. I bolted out an open window and never went back to school. There was too much work to be done on the farm anyway. I have wished over the years that I hadnt kicked the poor teacher. I am very ashamed of the way I acted.
I also remember the way we farmed. With teams of horses and mules. Fields were plowed with a walking plow and planted with an old chucaluck planter. It planter would be jabbed in the field then handles pushed together and two kernels of corn would drop. Push handles apart and lift planter. Then you would take two steps and do the same again until field was planted by hand. Cultivation was done with a walking plow with two beams, two small shovels to each beam adjusted to rip out weeds and bank dirt into crop row. One row at a time. At a teams pace of four miles per hour. We would walk all day plowing or cultivating.
At harvest time all corn was shucked by hand with a shucking hook or peg. Corn pitched into the wagon as you walked along the side of wagon ant the team would move on slowly. The wagon had a high board side opposite the picker called a bang board. You would pitch the corn ears against the boards until the box was full. Then you drove to the corn bin and scoop shovel in hand pitched the load of corn off. When I was 17 I did farm work for Joe Odvody, Cedar Bluffs, NE. Back then I could shuck 100 bushels of corn by hand in one day.
We always had a cave or root cellar. Mom would can four to five hundred jars of jams, jellies, apple butter, peach and tomato preserves, pickles, and all types of vegetables. Root crops, potatoes, carrots, beets, squash, pumpkins, and crocks of kraut. Each spring we would start to plant and plan for the next winter months.
People live now from day to day with no plans ahead for the next winter.
FLORENCE, NE IN 1918
Old Weber Mill was on creek at North edge of Florence. Brisbane Electric Streetcars ran down center of 30th Street. At the north end of 30th was the Ice House. Ice was cut from basins of water company. Next to the Ice House was Marodies Drugstore, C.W. Hull Lumber and Coal, Old Postoffice, Bank Building, Prices Hardware, Nick Neigro Shoe Shop, Harrington Grocery Store, Standard Oil Station, John Renigar Barber Shop, Pool Parlor, Jensens Meat Market, Brices Restaurant, Bob West Hardware, Old Livery Stable and Feed Store, Old Ford Garage owned by Bill Peppercorn, Bill Peppercorn House, Garage, Sweely Lumber and Coal, and Masonic Temple.
Across the street from the Ice House was the Old Library. Next to the Library was Forges Feed and Seed (in the rear was Ludwicks blacksmith shop). Then Mrs. Dolls Candy Store, Willard Greens House, Another Candy Store, Petersons Restaurant, I Fixit Repair Shop (he fixed all items and also made violins and banjos), Seright Drug Store, Jim Brenimans Barber Shop, Helfrige Grocery Store, Repair Garage, Bank of Florence, Vacant Lot, Sorensens Dentist, Haman Hotel, Dr. Adams, Florence Park, and a Gas Station.