Elliot F. Brodie, November 15, 2018


Elliot F. Brodie, November 15, 2018


Cherry Valley
Great Depression
One Room Schoolhouse
South Valley


Elliot Brodie has lived the majority of his life in the area of Roseboom, NY. Born in the mid-nineteen-twenties, Elliot grew up on a farm and went to school for the duration of the Great Depression. In his adult life he would work as both a trucker and farmer. Elliot has passed down the tradition of farming and maple sugaring to his children.

At the age of 94 in 2018, Elliot is full of memories. Elliot recounts growing up during the Great Depression as a child of a rural family and how this affected his family growing up. As Elliot grew up, he would attend school in first a one room, then a two room schoolhouse. He explains the transition from one school to the other along with other accounts of school life, including playing football and baseball.

Elliot was also kind enough to share what it was like to grow up on a farm and to witness new innovations in farming technology, such as the tractor. While growing up on the farm was difficult, there were always neighbors around to help each other out. In the story of his life, Elliot puts extra emphasis on his life as a child on the farm both at home working and going to school.


Christopher Carey


Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta




Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY


3864 x 5152






Upstate, NY
Westford, NY


Christopher Carey


Elliot F. Brodie


2959 CNTY HWY 34
Westford, New York


Christopher Carey = CC
Elliot Brodie = EB

[Start of Track 1, 0:00]

The following interview is being conducted with Elliot F. Brody for CGP Community Stories is taking place on November 15th, 2018 at Elliot Brodie's residence at 2 9 5 9 County Highway 34 Westford, New York. The Interviewer is Christopher Carey. How are you doing today Mr. Brodie?


So tell me a little bit about yourself.

Well, I was brought up in [19]24. That was before the depression. We lived on a farm. There wasn't much going on there. Everything was kinda bad. Yes. We got along. People didn't have the money. They didn't get much coming in. So we lived with my grandfather, who was a cripple, [and] my dad did the farming. He would do all the work. Not the money part. In [19]24 when I was born, course they came here in 1920. Mom always went back to Massachusetts where she was born, for us children to be born. I don't know why. She’d go up there and stay with her mother, then she'd come back home. Back then they didn't do what they do today. We had a lot of fun without destruction. To go out and play in the wintertime, skiing and riding downhill. I had three brothers and three sisters, so we had quite a crew. [chuckles] Well we used to fight some, but, that's normal I guess between family and kids.

[Track 1, 02:03] Then we walked to school. We had a little schoolhouse that was about two miles away. The only way we could go to school was walk. [My] two older brothers, they were in school. I would follow them to Wilder school and then the teacher would send me home, send a fellow home to take me home. When I was five years old I started going to that school in the first grade. It's a little one room schoolhouse. We had probably 10 to 15 kids in it for eight grades. And as a matter of fact the school is still there; it's just moved a little bit further away from the road. The fellow who bought it, he lives in it. That was quite an event to walk to school. I can remember when we were, I think I was in the second grade, dad rented a farm down in Westville, New York and moved down there. We had a bus to take us to school, we thought that was quite a novelty [chuckles]. We weren't used to that. Of course, he only had it for a year, then the fellow sold the farm and we went back again to my grandfather's, and then dad bought a farm down in South Valley. We moved down there again. We got bused to school, which was something, and this wasn't really a bus, it was usually a car. Only, probably, four or five went in it.

[Track 1, 03:46] That was the two room schoolhouse. It was kinda nice. Quite a lot different than the one room, we had quite a few more kids. It was two rooms, one for up through the fourth grade, and fifth through the eighth. I went through school there, finished school there in the seventh grade. When I went in the eighth grade, somehow the district got together and they quit eighth grade. They sent them to Cherry Valley Central School, which was quite a lot different. I was bashful at that time and I didn’t get along good because of it. I would get mixed up because at Cherry Valley, where we went to central school, we didn't stay in one room. We went from one room to another for each class. Of course, I didn't do as good when I was new. Before the two room school house I used to get good marks, when I got up there they dropped. In fact, first year up there, my eighth grade [year,] I flunked English Regents at the end of the year. It didn't make any difference. I'd never ask questions, so I didn't know as much as I should have. Then as time went on, the next year, went back and took my Regents and got along better, I guess, and I took my Regents in January and I got an 86 in them, which was quite a lot different. She used me as an example after that, said “You could do anything if you want to.” Most of the subjects were pretty simple. Math. I enjoyed math and spelling. There was another farm boy and he got 100 in his math Regents at the end of the year, and I got 98. All the village kids, I don't know what they got, but they didn't get anywhere near us.

[Track 1, 05:58] It was interesting, though, to do something like that. Then, of course, I went through school up there. In 1942, graduated and got out. I don't know why but I had a girlfriend. I was already engaged before I got out of school. I often wished I went in the service, but I didn't. We got together [and] we got married instead. I was 18 and we lived right around the area all of our life. We are still here. I'm actually within a mile away from where I was brought up where I'm living now and from where her parent’s farm was. There was a time when I didn't stay here because there was nothing here. When we got married, I had a farm house I was supposed to take in the run of shares. When we came back from our honeymoon, the fellow had sold it. So we were lost but I ran my dad's farm for a year. Then I had done the other odd jobs. After that, worked the creamery for a while, but that I couldn't take it because of arthritis; the steam caused it to get worse. I quit that, worked for a farmer up here through the summer.

[Track 1, 07:45] Then of course when fall would come, he didn't need me because fall work finished up. All they had do is milk. But he was good, he went to Cherry Valley on the farm up there that peddled milk and got me a job up there. So I started work after the first of December. [At that time we had a one month old son.]

[Track 1, 08:06] My oldest son was born in the first of November and I started up there the first of December. We rented up there a house that used to be a restaurant. Well of course there were no rooms in it, just an upstairs room, bedroom, where we slept. Downstairs it was just a kitchen and one big front room. Of course up there we didn't have much heat. We had to furnish our own heat. We burnt coal; we couldn't keep fire going all the while because we didn't have the money yet. The bedroom upstairs, it didn't get any heat anyway. We'd get up in the morning and it would be freezing in there, in the bedroom. I'd go down and stoke the fire up get warm downstairs and then we would be all right. I used to walk back and forth from the farm every morning, do the milking, and then I'd walk home and eat breakfast and I'd go back for the day. Then when noon came, we always went home for lunch at noon. At night we'd milk, then we were done. That's the way it went all winter. Then when spring came, course then came crop time, we worked and got the crops in and got the hay in when the hay time came. We got everything done up in the fall or early spring and summer. We never had a vacation. Every day, even Sunday, we had to work Sundays even, but Sundays all we did was milk. Then we were done. We had three strings of cattle. I milked one half a string, I milked, and then I milked another string up further. Made an "L" shape through the barn. The other fellow, he milked the other side, then he milked the other half where I was. We never carried milk. We had, I don't know what they were, they were probably six or eight gallon pails. Nine or even ten, I don't know, but they were big pails and we just milked and dumped it in the pails. We had another fellow that came with the yolk on his shoulders, he carried it out, ran it through what they called an aerator to cool it. Then they went to the tank, pumped it through the aerator, and pumped it right through into a tank. Then the next day is when they'd pasteurize it, make chocolate milk. They sold chocolate milk, whole milk. It was really quite a job.

[Track 1, 11:40] I worked there two years. Then my dad wanted to get off the farm so I came back and took over the farm. We ran the farm two years, and then my wife's mother developed cancer. So she wanted to go take care of her, so, told dad we were going to leave. So we went down so she could take care of her mother until died. She didn't live long after we got there, probably three months. It was time spent together, the last time. That's important anyway, to spend time with family. After that, I didn't take over the farm yet, but I lived on the farm. We lived there with her dad for a while, then he went lived with his son. So we lived on the farm. We didn't have much farm because he had problems in later years. Somebody kept shooting his animals. He never knew where or why. When we took over the farm we had one cow.

[Track 1, 13:07] I started driving truck when I was young, hauling milk to the creamery with canned milk. When that happened, I went back to driving truck again. I went down and what they call East Sidney Dam. I hauled aggregates from Wells Bridge up to East Sidney Dam for a year until they got the dam built. I came back on the farm and I put more cows on and we farmed it. It was quite a problem back then. My wife, she didn't have a license at first, but I told her she might better get it because if I go somewhere and have a problem with a truck, and I'd have her go with me to drive the car home, and she'd do that without a license. So I told her after a while she'd better get her license. So with that she got her license. [Brief interruption]

[Track 1, 14:16] Then as time went on, boys got big enough, I let them take over the farm and I went over the road as tractor trailer, hauling. Done that until I retired in 1975, which wasn't really my decision. I had to. In 1975, in May I was going down to Connecticut and a fellow came across the center line with a load of swinging beef. I don't know why, whether he lost control or what. He striped the whole left side of my rig right from the front bumper back through. I got out. I wasn't hurt a bit. Nothing! So I got out the other door come round. He was pretty bad shape. They made us both go to the hospital to get checked, of course he was there for longer. Checked me over and I was all right, I could go back. I had a job to get back, I had to call company, sent a man down to pick me up. We got back to the accident scene. So the safety supervisor was there of course. He says to me “You know you've got three days off now until we get done investigating.” The fellow that picked me up looked at him, he says “You look down there at the curb and,” he says “you can see where he jumped the curb before he even got hit.” So I wasn't even in the highway. So he says “Alright we'll go down,” we went down, he took pictures, he says “Alright, you can work tomorrow.” So that went fine. I worked and June 19th I was going back into Connecticut. I got down the other side of the Hudson where they got a "Y" coming from the other way. I was on the main highway, the fellow came up the other side of the "Y,” he never slowed up. He came right through and hit me head on. Laid me up so I couldn't work. [I went to the hospital in Hudson and the doctor gave me 67 sutures on my face and my right knee was gashed from one side to the other side.] I was on crutches for probably a year before I could get walking, my back was so bad. But, as time went on, I went back. I told them, “I don't think I can work, I can't stand it to sit in the seat when the truck is that long and all day driving.” The safety supervisor, he kept after me to come back. I got a letter from him that says you were one of our best drivers, he says, we want you back. We got a place for you any time you come back. I never felt capable of going back, so I never went back until too late. It was a few years after that they sold the outfit out. Quality carried it. So I didn't have a place anyway.

[Track 1, 17:38] I just farmed it. Of course I didn't do much farming, really, I couldn't do an awful lot. I helped the boys a little. I'd ride the tractor and do things like that.

The oldest boy, he went in the service. When he got out he wasn't with the farm. He went to work at GE [General Electric]. He didn't work there very long and he quit, got married and they went to Florida. He wound up down there a plumber. The oldest boys stayed on the farm. Finally, one day, he was picking something up and he evidently done it wrong and picked it up with his back instead of his legs and hurt his back, so, he couldn't do much for quite a while. It kinda tied us up. Time went on [and] he got back so he could do the milking, do things again. But he says he didn't feel good about doing it so we sold the farm and reserved a piece of land and built a house on it.

[Track 1, 19:07] Built the house in '88 and in '99 I had them spray foam insulation on a metal quonset building. I had an outdoor furnace in it and the pipe went right up through the roof, I put it right up through the roof. They sprayed it against the pipe. The first night when they got done, the house burnt; the insulation caught on fire. I didn't realize it was flammable. He told me if it caught on fire, get right out because it's deadly poison. It's flammable, it lit, came right into the house took the house, everything. We got out with just what we had on. Of course we had good neighbors. A fellow had a trailer up here and he said "You can live in my trailer." So we went up and moved in the trailer, there was room for all three of us... four of us, actually, my wife was still living. So we went up in the trailer and had two bedrooms so the oldest boy wouldn't board with somebody else. Then we got another neighbor, who actually is from the city, he had two houses up here in these, no, three houses he had! So he said, “You wanna live in my house, you can live there as long as you want.” He said “All you got to do is pay the light bill.” So we went up there, lived until spring. All winter I was drawing blueprints of a house that I wanted. When spring came I had all decided what I wanted. Had a fellow who was going to come and build it. He kept putting it off, putting it off and I'd get after him. Finally he quit the business. Then when he quit, then I started and then we built it ourselves. My nephew, he was a carpenter, he came down and he owed my son money for sugaring supplies, so he came down and helped with the work. He engineered it and done it, which was a lot cheaper, but still it was expensive. The other fellows he gave me a good price. I don't know. He just was interested I guess. Well, actually, he was from out below Syracuse, so maybe that was the reason. He didn't want to move so far from home? We got the house built, we moved in the summer of 2001. It wasn't far too long before, while we were out there, we came back in. Been here ever since.

[Track 1, 22:28] Six years ago, 2012, my wife got cancer... we lost her. The three of us, son, daughter and I stayed right here and lived here. My son, he's in the sugar business, he was doing that all the while. Back then he was tapping around eighteen to twenty thousand taps. The sap, I'd go up and I'd boil it for him. He'd do all the work and I just sat there and watched the evaporator and made sure everything worked alright. A little over a year ago, he got cancer and went in for treatment. Doctor done a good job, he was in remission. Went pretty good and went right back to work while he was taking his chemo treatments each week. Take his treatment, he'd come home, lay around that day and the next day he'd be right out in the woods, so it never bothered him. This past summer here, it came back, so he had to start over again. He went out, got his treatments; I'd take him over, sat there and he’d take his treatment. When he got done with the treatments he'd come home. Usually it was about four to five hours. Just before his last treatment, he was in the woods, he drove back down, told my daughter “I got pains in my chest. I'm having a heart attack.” So she come right in and got me and I rushed him right over to the hospital. I got him over there and that's what it was, it was a heart attack, he had a massive heart attack. He laid there in emergency room. He died on them three times there and they brought him back. After a while, I guess the last time he died, they got it that long enough to sign some papers for an operation. So they rushed him right down to surgery. Went through that good. He's already got something like three or four days, after words he come home. He said “Doing pretty good now. We just got to take it easy.” I don't know what else...

[Track 1, 25:16] Back in those days we had the depression at twenty nine [1929]. I can well remember that, I was five years old. I remember dad was working the farm, of course, Grandpa didn't give him any money for it, he just worked it for him. So he had to get a job to live. He worked for WPA, and he'd work there then do the work on the farm too. Finally, the Depression hit. We headed for Massachusetts, where every year they would go to Massachusetts anyway to visit. So, we went up there. I stayed up there with my uncle one summer, when I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I guess I remember him, yeah, he lived in Gardner, Massachusetts. He got up every day looking for work, and then he came home at night. Never found work.

[Track 1, 26:21] After the Depression was over, things started coming back again. That had to be hard. Back then, again, I didn't realize it. In later years, I look back and I think, 'how did they manage it?' No money. I don't know whether they got help from the city, help the state or what, but somehow they lived. They had a big house there; It was three floors. My uncle's father and mother lived on the bottom floor. They had a sister and her brother [who] lived with them. My aunt lived on the second floor. And the third floor is where we slept. It must have been a big house. There were four of them down on the bottom floor. I think they had all their bedrooms right down there. I'm not sure. My Uncle, I don't know where they slept, I don't remember them sleeping anywhere. They must've had a bedroom somewhere besides upstairs. Of course when you're kids you don't think of things, you just take things for granted as they come. When the Depression ended, he bought another place, my Uncle, got a job as a steamfitter. He got a job as a steamfitter making pretty good money and he bought a house. Lived there for quite a while, quite a few years they lived there. His son, he had a son my age, he took him in, taught him the business and they worked together as steamfitters. Things kind of played out in Massachusetts, they didn't have no work. So they went south and worked down there in schools and places like that as steamfitters. Eventually, I don't know when, my cousin, my age, he started working for DuPont. I guess something in where he worked caused problems. When he quit, he had to quit, and I think he was on getting money from them to live on because he couldn't work. But he died young, Herb. They lived in Virginia. Then his uncle, he never did come back. His wife came back to Massachusetts after he died.

[Track 1, 29:35] We don't understand. Of course people today, kids today don't think. They go out and get in trouble. That's their fun. We didn't, even in school. If we got spanked in school, we got it too. Then we'd get home, of course,

[Start of Track 2, 0:00] the teacher would let them know, and you would get it again when you got home. Parents didn't stick up for the kids. They knew the teachers were right. I think they still are the kids think they're not, and the parents, they got to convince them that they're not. They're picking on them. It's quite a different world than it was back in the 20s and 30s.

I remember back, [19]37 it was, dad, on the farm, they didn't get nothing for milk. I can still remember he had one cow he wanted to sell for beef to a follow; it was a cattle dealer. He offered thirty six dollars for the cow. It was a big cow, probably dressed out six hundred [pounds]. Beef today you pay more than that for a roast almost. But that's what the dealer told him that's all they were worth. He started having a problem with the milk and didn't get any money for it, so they banded together, a bunch of them, formed a union. That union, it put a lot of pull out. They started building a creamery. As a matter of fact, they built a creamery over in Worcester and started shipping milk there. I don't know if they made more money or not. They must have because they built the creamery and farmers were running it. It went along quite a few years and finally a fellow down in the city bought the creamery and ran it on his own. He was a pretty decent fellow. He wasn't out to get rich, he was helping out. As time went on, he sold the creamery to someone else. Finally, I forgot what year was now, but years later they quit using the creameries. Most of the creameries closed up. And they'd haul and pick up milk, bulk milk then, and they'd go right to the city [where] they would go through a creamery. Before that, it was all canned milk back in the early days. Take it over, they would dump the milk from the cans and they went through a washer. Sterilizer. They'd come back out, they would put them back on the truck and take them back to the farmers.

[Track 2, 03:22] The farmers, they all got along together pretty good then. We didn't have problems with one trying to outdo the other one. As a matter of fact, a bunch of us got together and bought some equipment for harvesting and it belonged to the whole group. There were four or five of them in the group. We'd work together and to do the work for each farm. Now every farmer is on his own, he's got his own equipment or else he hires somebody to do it. Back then they didn't hire, they just did it on their own. We got a lot of problems. Break something, of course you had to fix it. Didn't one man paid for it, it came out of the group. It was really cheap for each one.

[Track 2, 04:31] I don't remember what happened with the equipment, but I can remember when we were young we always cut corn by hand. We had what we called a corn knife. We put our arm around a bundle of corn and then we pulled the knife through and cut it all and we lay it down. When you're ready to put it the silo, they'd come down, they'd just picked it up, put it on the wagon and take it up, [and] went through a chopper and a blower to chop it up and blow it up in the silo. The time went on and they started getting these choppers that they chopped it right in the field. We never got that when we were kids on the farm. They came after Dad got off the farm. Dad chopped it, blew it in the wagon. To unloaded it the wagons had a box on it with an auger on the front where it took it into the blower, and they had a chain belt in the bottom of it that kept bringing it forward to the end where it dropped in the auger, and all you needed was just a blower to blow it up in the silo. You didn't need a chopper, that was all done. Then we got the thresher and it was the same. We used to cut and thresh the oats, barley and stuff with what they called a "Drop Reaper." It had knives on the front of it and a table behind the knives, and it had paddles that came down and pushed the hay, corn, oats or whatever it was over onto the platform behind the knives. Every once and a while an arm would come around and take it off so it was all cut. It wasn't bundled, but it was in a pile. A lot of farmers then used to go out and they take them and do what they call shock them up, they'd take them and put a bunch together and tie them together so they were tied in one piece. Then they eventually they came up with a reaper and binder where they'd go and the reaper would cut it, would bind it up, tie it up itself and lay it down. Then they'd go out after that was done, they'd go out and take a bunch of them together and they put them together, put another one on top, what they called "Shed the Water," so the water wouldn't go through them all. It was the same with the corn. As I said, we used to cut the corn with a corn knife, then they got what they called a "corn harvester," which would cut the corn and tie it up in bundles, kick it off in bundles. They never cut the string when they put it through the blower, they always put string and all through. I don't know why, I guess it probably chopped it up so much didn't make any difference.

[Track 2, 08:07] Of course we as kids, we used to have to get up in the silo and tread it down as it came in. I've heard of different ones where they had done that and they buried the kids back years ago. Killed them. We knew enough to keep on top. Of course, maybe they were just lazy? Maybe they don't do nothing? But we used to run around the silo all the while, stomp it down. When we got done and they got the load up there, we just rested until the next one came.

[Track 2, 08:47] It actually was quite a lot of fun, at least I thought so. The thresher was different. We had the old threshing machine. We had a fellow who used to come around with a threshing machine, thrash oats for the farmers. He'd set it up, feed the threshing machine oats. You had to be careful not to overload it so he could see what he was doing. Every once in a while the fellow pitching it off to him would give him more than he could handle and he'd get after them. “Not so fast!” You get more done going slow and doing it right, which is always right. Of course us kids, two older brothers and I, at home we used to have to work in the straw mow as it came out of the Threshing machine. The straw would come out the back. On the side they had a spout where the grain would come out, somebody was there catching a grain in a bushel basket and bag it up. And the straw came out the back, and we had to work back there. One would take it from the thresh machine throw it back to the next one, keep throwing it back until we got back to the back end of the straw mow. That was a dirty job. We came out of there looking like colored people. It was not fun. You'd breathe that in, then you're hacking that up for probably three or four hours afterwards before you'd get rid of it all. But that was our job. Then, eventually some of the people, some of the farmers got together and they had a fellow that came up with a blower on the threshing machine, which was a lot nicer. They'd back that in and blow it wherever they wanted to put it. You didn't have to work it. Time went on, things changed, now today you go out, you see these farmers with these corn harvesters, some of them five or six rows at a time. We used to take one row at a time back then. We would have sets and take even numbers six or eight, maybe some of them even ten to twelve. We cut it and run it through the chopper, blow it right into the silo. Get a load. Today they don't use wagons that much, today a lot of the farmers use trucks, which is a lot faster. Smaller farms, they still use wagons, but the big farms don't. They take the trucks up, dump trucks, and just dump it, slow and easy into the conveyor to go into the blower. And a lot of them, even they don't do that. They have these bags, they're long. They got a thing in front that blows the stuff into the bag. They keep blowing it in, as it blows it in it blows that bag out; I don't understand how it does it yet. They blow that bag out and it will go for probably a hundred feet, maybe two hundred feet and be full of silage. We used to do that with pitchforks. Dad would cut the hay, then he'd put the [unintelligible] in the dump rake. Rake it up into rows, and we used to have to go up and do what we used to call "cock it up" and take our pitchforks and put it, in other words, in a little haystack. Then when we got done, Dad got ready, we'd take the horses, the wagon, go out, and he'd throw the hay on the wagon. You go right between the mows for the hay-cocks. He throw it on, and we'd load it. Stomp it down. Then we'd get to the barn. A lot of the barns had no way of getting it off, you had to pitch it off, pitch it up into a barn door or over the rest of the barn, over the cow stable. We had to be up there, pull it back the full length of the barn and mow away. Farms would get what they call hay knives. I guess, more or less like a harpoon, maybe? They'd push it right down into the load of hay as far as you could push it. Then you had two levers, one on each side, you'd pull those levers up, when you pull them up it brought teeth out on the bottom that would hold the hay in it. Then we used a team or tractor, we used to use an old car, to hook onto it and you pull it up, right straight up. When it hit the track up above, had a catch there, it hit that catch, released the catch, and we pulled back on the track the full length of the barn, or wherever you wanted to stop it.

[Track 2, 15:04] That was a lot handier, but still we had work to do when they dumped that in the haymow. That was us kids' job, to mow the hay away. That was hard after it was dumped like that because it packed together. Usually it would take about six fork-fulls to have it emptied. Then they'd go back and get another load. Quite often a couple of us would stay there and mow it away while the others went back for the next load. In the wintertime we just push it down the shoots to the cows down below and then we'd feed them from that.

[Track 2, 15:53] Years ago everything was done with horses. We didn't know what a tractor was. The first tractor I can remember it was an old 10-20 tractor on steel [wheels]. Had lugs on it. It was rough riding, of course, it was better than walking, where doing the work with a team was faster. There was a nice tractor, plowing especially. Of course it's all steel, you didn't even have to steer them, you get him into a furrow going down through, and you could sit right there and let it go right down to the other end. For some reason it followed that right along. I never understood why, but it did. I used to do it quite a lot and, I'll never forget, I'd get going down through, and that noise, and sitting there doing nothing, I'd fall asleep. I usually woke up before I was up to the other end, so I got out of it. And eventually they came out with a rubber tire for tractors; they were a lot better, easier to ride. You could do probably do just about as much with the old steel lugs. They wouldn’t spin as much as a rubber does. The rubber would spin out on a slippery going, where steel would dig in and keep going.

[Track 2, 17:36] Back then we had quite a bunch of us on the farm anyway. As I've said, I had said three brothers and three sisters. My two older brothers, we got to work for the longest time. My sister, just younger than me by a year and a half, she didn’t like housework, so she worked the barn. She did outside work. My younger brother, he never did do too much. He wasn't much of a worker [chuckles]. At school, I don't remember whether he made it through the sixth grade or not, but I know he quit when he was in the low grades and, you know, he went in the service and he did better than most people do. He was smart, he just didn't want to put his mind to it. I guess we got a lot of them today. My sister died.

[Track 2, 18:40] We used to have to work, go to the barn every night and every morning. Nights we'd milk, probably five o'clock we'd start milking. My dad, my two older brothers, my sister, and I, we all had our cows we milked. We milked by hand. Then we got done, we'd go up, eat supper, we might sit around and listen to the radio a little while, then go to bed. In the morning we'd get up at 4:30, and back to the barn again. We had to get done before school started, of course. The bus would come usually around 8 o'clock, so we had to be all done, have breakfast and be ready to go. So 4 o'clock dad used to call us and we go to the barn and do the milking. The milk house was probably a hundred feet from the barn, so we had to carry the milk to the milk house, run to through what they called a "strainer," to strain it into the milk cans. That first one, they had just a vat with water in it and had an icehouse. Filled the icehouse in the winter with ice. Then they put the milk in the vat put the ice in to cool it. Then they came out with these electric coolers. They put the milk in the electric coolers to cool it overnight, and of course in the morning you didn't have to cool it, just the night milk so it was cool in the morning. If it was a certain temperature when it got to the creamery, the creamery would send it back and wouldn't take it. So you always had to be careful. As time went on they came out with a bulk tank. I remember I was still farming, I was still milking then at the time the milk tank came out. I put one in. I think I was the first one around here that did it. That was nice. First along, we carried it out straight into the milk tank. Then I got to the point where I said 'Well, I'll put in a pipeline milker.' So I put in a pipeline milker and it took it right out and put it in the tank every night and morning. And every other day the milk man would come, back up to the milk house and hook his hose on and pump it into his truck. It was really a lot simpler.

So do you feel that your childhood was very common among children in the area here?

I think so, yes.

How so? Were most of the people around here farmers?

Yeah. Everybody was farming.

Can you explain a little bit more about your education in the schoolhouse?

The little schoolhouse or the big one?

I guess the little schoolhouse.

[Track 2, 22:17] The little schoolhouse is nice. We sat there, teacher had her desk at the front of the room. She had all eight grades in the one room schoolhouse we were in. She'd teach a grade at a time. They had what they called a "recitation page" up in the front of the room right in front of the teacher's desk. A class would go up, first grade, minor seconds, so forth and so forth, individually. Each class would go individually to that recitation bench. She taught them there. She'd teach them, tell them things, and shrow them things. We had blackboards on the wall which she used to demonstrate, to check, and show us. Kids back then, they got a long good. We used to have a lot of fun. One thing I liked about that, it didn't matter what grade you were in, you were in every grade when she was teaching because you were right there, close. You could hear, you could listen, you could watch. So I think that's why kids did a lot better back then. Today everyone's on their own. There classes are separate. Back then, English or Math, or anything like that, Teacher would show the upper class it, and the lower class could pick it up to. So when they get up there, they were well versed on it, which made a big difference. That's probably why I got good marks in the little schoolhouses. In the two room schoolhouse, that's right down here in the village in South Valley, we didn't have any septic systems or anything. We had what they called an outhouse. The boys' house would be in one place and the girls' would be on the opposite side. We were separated there. In the one room schoolhouse, the schoolhouse sat in one place, you come out the door of the school and right straight ahead to the girls'. The boys' was out back of the schoolhouse on the other end. Then in the two room schoolhouse down there, I don't know what they've done, but they put in something, it wasn't septic because they never had water. Water came from the water pump down here. You had to pump the water and bring it in the pail for drinking purposes. They built some kind of a system, cesspool or something. I remember these big pipes that were probably a foot across inside which took all the waste out into the septic tank. I don't know whether they had to rinse that down every day or not, they probably did. The one room schoolhouse was different. We didn't have water there. We had to go to a neighbor's house with a pail and carry water back to schoolhouse. We always fought to do that because we wanted to get out of school. That was something different.

[Track 2, 26:13] The teacher in the one room schoolhouse had quite a job with all the classes. He had to be versed on everything, not just one subject like they do today. Teacher didn't have her own place to stay in the one room schoolhouse. She stayed with the parents. She'd stay with one parent for a while then she'd go stay with the next one, so she stayed with every parent at different times which made it cheap to hire her because she didn't have to pay nothing out. She got a room and board. I can't imagine what they'd get, probably wasn't much of anything.

[Track 2, 27:01] Now in the two room schoolhouse it was a little different. There we still had the recitation benches and went up. It was altogether different because we only had four classes. We had time and of course we had a library down here that we went to to work in. Then they had what they called the "belfry," the bell room, where they rang the bell. [It] was in kind of a hallway. They closed it up and put this septic system in. Girls would be on one side, the boys on the other side.

[Track 2, 27:53] Now, kids don't know what tough times are today. We went through school. I didn't care for school in the latter years because I wanted to get out, but a lot of kids didn't, they liked to go to school, they wanted to go on. A lot of them went on to college. I didn't know what that was. When I got out, I often wished I went in the service. When I got out was during the Second World War in [19]42. I had a buddy that we were real close, when we got out of school he went right into the Air Corps and went through the war. I think he made a career of it. Then when they got out of the Air Corps, when they got his discharge after his years were up. He still went to the base and worked on the base. That was out west. He lived out west, he was out in Alamogordo, New Mexico. He worked at the base until he died.

[Track 2, 29:19] School today, kids don't know what school is really. They don't do what they used to. Of course we used to have sports in the central school, Cherry Valley, when we went up there. I'll never forget because I was the eighth grade, and very seldom today you can get on a team in that lower grade, you got to be up sophomore or junior or something at least. Well I went and I went out for baseball the first year. I was right on the team the first year.

[Start of Track 3, 0:00] My two older brothers I used to play ball a lot together. I was pretty good at hitting, I was the poor fielder, but I was good at hitting. I think that's the only reason I stayed on. Very seldom struck out; I'd hit the ball, not always get a hit, but I'd hit the ball and that made a big score for coach.

When I was in sophomore year they got football back again. They had football in earlier years, before I can remember. A kid broke his neck, killed him, so they cut it right out. Coach got it back in when I was in the sophomore year, and a bunch of us went out. Actually, that was my favorite sport. I enjoyed that because I was always rough. We played, we didn't do a lot of winning. It wasn't twelve man football, it was six man football which is a lot faster game. You make 15 yards for first down and you had to handle the ball twice in the backfield in order to run it, otherwise you have to throw it. Today it's a lot simpler, the twelve man; you can take it, you can run it, you can throw it, do what you want with it! I often wished that they'd had twelve man back then. I would have enjoyed it. We had a big fella, he was probably weighed 215 [lbs], 220 [lbs], and he was built big. Coach put him right in the center and put me in center on the second team. He'd hike that ball back, of course we practiced a lot, he'd hike that ball back but by the time he let go of the ball, I was behind him! It didn't last long before he went on the second team and I on the first team. As I've said, I was always rough anyway, I never got hurt too much. I could take a lot of beating so it didn't bother me. We didn't win many games because it was our first year. We played, it was just fun to do it.

[Track 3, 02:39] I remember in baseball [chuckles] one game we had. Cooperstown, of course Cooperstown has always had a good team. Cooperstown came to Cherry Valley to play and we beat them one to nothing! And I made the only run! I got a hit and evidently the ones behind me knocked me around the bases and somebody got hitting enough so I could make it in. They never made a run. I'll never forget that. We had a good pitcher. The pitcher got kicked out of school and the next year [chuckles] we played Cooperstown over there and they robbed us! We didn't have a pitcher that could pitch. That's the main thing in baseball, the pitcher. They hit the pitcher all over. I think they beat us 15-2. Funny that I can remember some things like that, where a lot of things I can't remember. Things I've been involved in I can remember a lot. Of course the school, the one room and two room schoolhouse are different anyway. Kids are all together all the while. You get to Central School, you get your groups together, maybe three or four here three or four there, and they don't mix. It's not good. In later years they have to mix with others. They got to learn when their young.

Well with that I think we're just about out of time.

Oh we are?

I think so. So, I'd like to thank you for talking with me today and thank you for sharing your story.


30:00 - Track 1
30:00 - Track 2
4:51 - Track

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 02:03 - School, One Room and Two Room Schoolhouse
Track 1, 05:58 - Family, Farm Work
Track 1, 13:07 - Trucking
Track 1, 19:07 - Family, Community
Track 1, 25:16 - Great Depression, Family
Track 2, 00:32 - Great Depression, Dairy Farming, Farmer's Union
Track 2, 04:31 - Farming Techniques, Community
Track 2, 15:53 - Tractors
Track 2, 17:36 - Children, Farm Work, Milk
Track 2, 22:17 - School
Track 2, 29:19 - School Athletics




Christopher Carey, “Elliot F. Brodie, November 15, 2018,” CGP Community Stories, accessed December 3, 2022, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/363.