Aladdin Lamps and County Fairs: Childhood Memories of the Family Farm

An Iowa woman remembers working and playing as a child on her family farm; rendering lard and going to the county fair. She also talks about early technological advances like Aladdin lamps, radios and Ferris wheels.

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I was born in 1921, and one of my first memories of the farm where I was raised was of the Aladdin lamp my parents had. It made a white light and was such an improvement over the older kerosene lamps. Our neighbors told us they put on their overshoes by the light created by the Aladdin lamp on our back porch when they visited us.

My dad had the first radio in the neighborhood. It ran on batteries. He listened to the first trip Admiral Byrd made to the South Pole and Charles Lindbergh's solo flight to Europe. He and a neighbor listened to prize fights and my mother and the neighbor's wife mended while their men listened to the radio.

At butchering time I helped cut lard into half-inch pieces for rendering and cleaned casings to be used for stuffing sausage and liverwurst. The ham, shoulders and bacon were put into salt brine and then smoked with hickory wood in the smokehouse, as was the sausage. My mother baked our bread and churned our butter and she made her own laundry soap.

Every year we went to the county fair. My mother packed a dinner of fried chicken, potato salad and angel food cake. We ate in our car on the fairground lawn. The entertainment was horse races, displays in the floral hall, livestock shows and milkmaid contests. The merry-go-round, Ferris wheel and pony rides were the biggest attractions on the Midway.

Elaine L. Nebergall
Tipton, Iowa


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.