Growing up in Nebraska

Growing up in Nebraska
by Tone Heim McArtor
This account was excerpted and edited from an article pub­lished in Dreamsville, Lufkin, Texas. Ione, daughter of Linden and Viva Heim and granddaughter of Jonas and Ida Heim, lives at Grant, Nebraska, and uses her first name, Dorothy.
I grew up on a small farm near Dawson, Nebraska, with Mama, Daddy, and two sisters, Evelyn and Marjorie. We lived on a hill west of town near the consolidated school, which I attended for thirteen years. Kindergarten was an all-day affair that included a long nap. Our school was very modern and on the six-six plan: six grades upstairs and six down.
By the time I was in the seventh grade we had hot lunches cooked in the home economics room. Each lunch cost seven cents, which meant we three girls could eat all week for $1.05!
In high school, the seniors sat in the row closest to the west window in the assembly hall, and when I was a senior, I could look out and see our big yellow house that Grandpa (Jonas) built, gleaming in the sun. It had three porches. The back porch included a pump and a well box. Holes bored in the sides held knotted ropes. We tied the ropes to the bales of syrup buckets filled with milk and then lowered into the cooling depths of the well.
Some of the cream was skimmed off the milk to use on cereal, canned blue plums, strawberry shortcake or whipped topping on chocolate cake. We stirred the remainder of cream into the milk to drink. When I went off to the university I had to get used to homogenized milk.
The side porch wrapped around the southwest corner of the house. I remember watching out the kitchen window while a railroad bum [hobo] sat on that side porch and devoured a huge plate of roasting ears with homemade bread and butter.
I used the cement steps of the porch to crack walnuts from our grove on the Nemaha River. I painstakingly picked out many a pint of nuts to give my teachers at Christmas.

The big front porch made an “L” around the southeast corner of the house and opened into the front hall and an open stairwell. A landing partway up the stairs had beautiful stained-glass windows. A balcony at the top provided a stage for many of our homegrown plays.
The upstairs bedrooms were never heated. We slept in feather beds and did not tarry in our rush to the warmth of the floor furnace downstairs where we dressed. One door in the front hall opened into the front room, which was unheated in winter except when company was coming or Mama entertained her Tuesday Evening Literary club.
The carpet was rolled up twice yearly, hauled to the clothes line, and beaten vigorously amidst clouds of dust. The curtains had to be carefully laundered and dried on a stretcher for their straight, crisp look.
In the dining room, a round oak table with its many chairs served as a study center and also for lively card games of Muggins, Flinch, and Spoon. The latter included the use of one less spoon than players and there was always a scramble to avoid being the one left without a spoon!
When the threshing machine arrived during harvest, extra leaves were added to the table to accommodate as many as twenty men and boys. I remember peeling mountains of potatoes and enjoying the only time we had ice tea, made in a huge stone jar with a block of ice from the ice house in town and lots of sugar.
The dining room also contained a couch for napping as well as a radio. This is where we listened to “Amos and Andy,” “Fibber McGee and Molly,” “Little Theatre Off Times Square,” and “Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy.” The programs helped take one’s mind off doing the ironing on a flat board set up on the backs of two chairs. We ironed with the old sadirons [heavy flat irons] heated on the stove. One year, when times were especially hard, Daddy said that we would have to disconnect the electricity and the telephone since there wasn’t any money to pay the bills.
After a year of ironing with sadirons and washing smoked up lamp chimneys, we were able to be reconnected. We celebrated that first night by turning on every light in the house.