Without Electricity: Growing Up on an Illinois Farmstead

A Missouri woman tells a story about a prank played on her older sister while they were growing up without electricity on their family farm in the 1940s

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In 1940 there were still many family farms in Illinois without electricity or bath facilities. I grew up with nine other children on one of those farmsteads.

We bathed on Saturday nights in a washtub behind the wood-burning range. The kitchen would be closed off, with the younger children bathing first and my high school age sister bathing last.

One Saturday night after the younger children had bathed and my big sister was still relaxing in the washtub, two of us younger sisters slipped out the front door, ran around to the back of the house and knocked loudly on the back door. In those days, the back door was used when friends and neighbors came calling.

Needless to say, my big sister lost no time in getting out of the washtub and running for safety. With no place to go, she tried to hide in the supply closet where the milk strainer hung on the door. Since there was actually no room for a person to hide in the closet, the milk strainer was knocked from its resting place with much clatter and landed on her bare foot.

When big sister learned the knocking was only a trick played on her by two of her mischievous younger sisters, she was very upset and threatened to remove our names from her Christmas gift list.

Margie Van Meter
Lewistown, Missouri

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.