Memories written by my father, John Earl
By Jeff Beck
My father, John Earl, was a simple man who loved his church, family and community.
Dad was educated only to the eighth grade at Bargersville School. He followed the advice of his own father, who encouraged him to quit school. Later, he talked about that being a great mistake, but in those tough times many students, especially men, quit school. Young boys often left school during the Great Depression to help work the farm. Money was tight and extra help was needed to survive.
Memories of my father are found throughout my home, mostly in his bible and other places of safe keeping. Among my dad’s papers, I recently discovered two pages of his handwritten notes. I hope to share some memories of much harder times in White River Township. My father mentioned important social activities: family, church and Masonic affiliations. Families worked together; neighbors helped neighbors.
Bob Cragen, a cousin and friend, stopped by my house and talked about tough times and memories of our community and our Morgan County family. Bob grew up in the Martinsville community and graduated from high school there in 1950. Bob shared the story of a man who once lived on same 725 West Road I now call home. When the man had a heart attack, neighbors from near and far came to harvest his crop and plow the fields. My grandfather, Amzie Beck, died of heart attack in 1952. I wonder if my grandfather was the heart attack victim, as Bob could not recall the man’s name.
A huckster wagon from Banta, owned by Michael Tackitt, was pulled by a team of horses. People traded eggs and chickens for pepper, salt and sugar. Two small bananas cost 5 cents, and chewing gum came in footlong stick. Paraffin, used to seal jars, cost 5 cents. Eggs sold for 8 cents per dozen, and a 200-pound hog sold for $5. Work shoes were $2, and shirts and pants were $1.25.
My grandfather was said to have paid 75 cents per day for labor, with an evening meal included. The school bus — a cold ride — was in an open wagon that held 27 children. Dad wrote that no bread was available at Dunn’s market in downtown Bargersville, which sold 25-pound bags of cornmeal and flour. Dunn’s also sold material women could use to make clothes for their family or sell to earn extra income; nothing was wasted.
Property taxes had to paid or the farm would be lost. To pay those taxes, Amzie sold eight head of cattle at $8.50 per hundred pounds and two loads of wheat.
Everyone in family had some type of responsibility. Sometimes I feel simple times were better, and I wonder what our community will be like in 20 more years. With more homes coming, farming becomes more difficult.
Our memories must be shared and documented. I would encourage you to write down a few so your children and grandchildren can one day appreciate reading and learning about your life.