Books on the Farm

A traveling library stopped in Seneca, in the heart of Crawford County, once a week in the 1940s and 1950s. It came out of Prairie du Chien, the County seat, and made regular stops for several hours at a time,  in many small towns. The traveling library was a small van. You could walk up the steps in the back,  and the insides would be lined with books that you could check out.  Your limit was 4 books per person, good for 2 weeks. We checked out Zane Grey books, Red Ryder, adventure stories, history books on the Civil War, the Hardy Boys series. I tended to pick out a book that had an interesting cover. I figured if the cover was good, the book inside had to be good.

We owned very few books on the farm. Dad and Mom did not buy books, unless there were a few available at farm auctions that cost a few cents. One such book was from the Hardy Boys series, “The Sign of the Crooked Arrow”. I must have read that book 4 or 5 times. Joe and Frank Hardy fly down to New Mexico to help their cousin on the Crowhead Ranch. The ranch hands are disappearing one by one and the Hardy Boys help the police apprehend a vicious gang of outlaws.

We had one Roy Rogers book, forgot the name, but the bad guy is not known until the end of the book, and it turns out he was a blind man who was not really blind.

Quite often Saturday night would find us over to Boscobel to buy groceries. My sister Rita remembers that you could go into a used book store and buy a book for 10 cents, read it, and bring it back and sell it for 5 cents. She read many of the Nancy Drew books. I believe we boys did that also, but my memory is not clear on it.

We owned one encyclopedia, not a set, just one book, I believe it was the “N” volume. It was published in 1937, and refers to World War I as the “Great War”.

The mailman delivered the Sears, Roebuck catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog. These were big, thick catalogs and seems to weigh a ton. But they were a window to the world for us kids. A farmer could order just about anything that was manufactured, including complete houses, cars, machinery, tools, household appliances, chickens, bees, clothes, and best of all- toys.

There was a section of female undergarments that became more intriguing as we boys got older. The Montgomery Ward catalog had “good”, “better”, and “best” categories of merchandise. Prices increases as you went from good to best. The catalogs were around the house all the time, and many a spare minute was spent just browsing through the thick books.

Jung’s and Burpee seed catalogs arrived in the dead of winter. The bright vibrant colors of the pictures of vegetables and fruits contrasted sharply with the barren fields and snow covered hills surrounding the Scheckel farm.



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