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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



From time to time I enjoy the chance to step aside for a week and pass along something I think you'll enjoy. This week my guest columnist is Mr. James Graham from Ames. Mr. Graham grew up in the Dexter area and his reminices about growing up are always a pleasure to read. I hope that you'll enjoy this week's diversion from normal and I'll be back next week with more craziness and a new history photo to keep your mind on that time long ago.

And now it gives me great pleasure to welcome Mr. Graham and his tale of food preservation on the farm.

See you next week... Remember we're all in this together.

Memories about the Preservation of Food on the farm.

Today as my wife and I were buying groceries in an Ames food mart I noticed that almost a third of the store was freezers and refrigerators. All for the preservation and ease of preparing food. How things have changed since my parents with me tagging along bought our groceries at Adkins Cash Food store in Dexter, Iowa.

I don't remember a lot about Adkins except we use to take a case of eggs in on Saturday night to trade for groceries. I remember Adkins had a small freezer, which had ice cream and a refrigerator for dairy products and another for the meats. Nothing like the food stores of today.

What I really remember about Adkins was this large coal stove set in the middle of store. A cold winter time ride to town in my dads 1936 Chevy to buy groceries I would head for that hot stove in Adkins and warm up. If it were really cold my dad would also head for the stove and join me along with the other shoppers.

There were refrigerators back in the 1930's but they were very costly. The icebox was a way of life until after WWII when cheap refrigerators became available, which put the end to the icebox.

I remember the icebox we had in Des Moines. We had a square sign that we would hang in our window when we needed ice. There was a number on each side, 25-50-75 & 100. Whatever number was up the daily iceman would deliver a block of ice of that weight and put it in our icebox. Along with the iceman we had a daily milkman who also would deliver a quart or more of milk in glass bottles at our door. The cream would always collect at the top, which my mother would poor off, and we would drink the remaining milk and use the cream for our cereal.

All this changed in 1939 when my Grandfather George Graham passed away and we moved to the family farm near Dexter. This was a big change for all of us. Especially for me a seven-year old boy being uprooted from the comforts of city living to a farm. Very exciting I thought but we had no running water, which meant out side toilets and baths in a wash tub. We did have a 32-volt battery plant for the lights, better than some of the neighbors that still had only kerosene lamps. Still it was very dark and scary at night in the country with all the owls and other night noises. But the airport beacon light that would flash in my room about every 30 seconds helped to scare away the monsters. Yes, back then we had regional emergency airports every 30 miles between Des Moines and Omaha in case an airplane would have problems and need a place to land.

We did have an icebox on the farm but no iceman in the country. For ice we would have to drive to Dexter and buy a block of ice from Blohms Butcher shop. Ed or Walt Blohm would carry out the ice and lay it on the front bumper of the car. That's how we transported ice back then unless you had a pickup.

It was a nuisance and an added expense to drive to Dexter almost daily just to get ice to keep the milk and butter fresh. Instead my dad tied a rope on a cream can and dropped the can thirty foot into the well where it was cool enough to keep the butter and milk sweet. I liked to peek into the well but my dad did not let me get too close because he was afraid I would fall in.

We did not need a daily milkman like we had in the city because we had milk cows for fresh milk and cream daily; also we had chickens for eggs, a large garden for vegetables so it wasn't to bad. The problem was having fresh meats. Still we had canned meat and that was always tender and very good. Also if we had a fat hen that was not laying eggs or an ornery rooster we could always chop off their heads and have chicken for dinner. Always a quick fix for a meal but I really hated to be the one that had to chop off the head of the chicken which would run headless all over the place throwing blood everywhere. It was gross.

With dad milking several cows we always had more milk and cream than we needed. What milk we did not use would be put through a cream separator to remove the cream from the milk. Excess skim milk would be fed to the hogs and the cream was saved until we had a cream can full and this would be taken to the Dexter creamery on Dallas street next to the Library. I liked to go to the creamery with my Dad while he was waiting for Ward Paullin to test the butterfat of our cream, which determined how much we would be paid. I would sometimes sneak into the back of the creamery and watch them make butter. Yes, Dexter made its own Butter and it was very good. I can still remember the wrappers on the butter that said Dexter Butter.

We did not always buy Dexter butter because we had so much extra cream we often made our own butter at home. Sounds exciting but not to me because I was the one that turned the butter churn. Easy work but oh so boring. The butter we made was in small amounts and kept in a bucket deep in our well to keep it fresh.

Veggies we would can by putting the vegetables in glass Kerr or Ball jars with the lid sealed with a rubber ring. The sealed jar would then be put into a cooker for the purpose of killing any bacteria left in the jars that would spoil the contents. It was lots of work and every one would help including me. I did hate to shell peas. Root crops we would dry and store in the cool basement. We had a bin for the potatoes, and another bin for onions and beets.

I remember our biggest problem was the preserving of meat. There were a number of butcher shops in most all of the towns; even a small town like Dexter was no exception. We could buy fresh meats but we had no way to keep it from spoiling

George Blohm opened his butcher shop in Dexter in 1888 located back of where Webb's Cafe once stood on State street now old Highway 6. This is where George did all his own butchering, smoked the meat and also made wieners, sausage, and rendered his own lard. By 1906 George had moved his butcher shop to the present location on Marshall Street. For years Blohm's would deliver fresh meat, groceries and possibly ice as many as four times a day to his customers in town. After the war people were buying cars, driving to town to do their shopping instead of having Blohms deliver. With a loss of business Blohm dropped to two delivers a day and finally discontinued the delivery altogether.

George Blohm passed away in 1918. After George's son Carl returned from the war he took over all of the butchering until 1934. Carl and his wife Wilma also besides the butcher shop started a restaurant called the Dexter Cafe. Wilma and Carl's most famous customers were outlaw Clyde Barrow and the notorious Barrow gang.

Almost daily for most of a week Wilma Blohm would fix 5 meals to go for Clyde while husband Carl would put a block of ice on the bumper of Clyde Barrow's car while Bonnie Parker stayed in the car and watched. The gang was camped near Dextfield park just north of Dexter until a posse flushed them out in a hail of gunfire. Three of the gang escaped including Clyde and his girl friend Bonnie Parker.

In 1934 Carl and Wilma turned the business over to Carl's sister Martha, along with brothers Ed and Walter. Ed took over the butchering while Martha and Walter ran the store and cafe The cafe's name was renamed the "Indian Grill".

Before lockers solved the problem of preserving meats most of the farm folk would butcher late in the fall after the weather had cooled down. I remember the time we butchered a hog one late fall day. The squealing hog would be pulled up by his hind legs and stuck in the neck to bleed out. Then it would be skinned, cleaned and cut up. Some of the best meat was saved for canning. A couple of hams and the belly were saved for curing with salt and sugar. I think we hired this out. The fat was trimmed off to make lard. Rendering lard was no easy task; the fat would be cooked and pressed out with a lard press. The lard was kept in small crock jars where we stored them in the cool basement until needed in the kitchen. All that was left over from the rendering was the cracklings. These I guess were also edible but not by me. Left over pork that we did not can or cure was hung in the shed where it would freeze with the upcoming winter weather. For several weeks after we butchered we had pork three times a day.

This all changed the next year in 1940 when Blohm's put in a locker plant. A major break through for rural farm and town people alike. I know this stopped our home butchering as we would either buy a side of beef from Blohms or take a hog up for Ed Blohm to butcher. Ed would wrap the meat in white paper and marked each package with the name of the contents. This would be placed in one of Blohm's rented lockers.

As a young boy it was fun to go into this very cold locker plant where the temperature was always zero or below. It would take a while to find the meat that mother wanted as it was usually clear to the back of the locker. We would sometimes have to unload the locker until we found what we wanted and refill it back up again. By then we would be cold and shivering as we walked out into warm summer heat.

We got REA electric power shortly after the war was over and the first thing we bought was a refrigerator, but the freezer came later. Running water was another big improvement except sometimes we would pump the well dry. Now we finally had every thing the town people had except for one thing. The town folks did not have the dusty roads that we had in the country. Still living in the country during this time was an exciting and wonderful experience for a young boy growing up.

James Graham.