Leslie Rathbun, November 14, 2019

Title

Leslie Rathbun, November 14, 2019

Subject

Dairy Farming
Economy
Electricity
Great Depression
Mechanization
Office of Price Administration
Order of the Grange
Rationing, Wartime
Recreation
Rural Education
Rural New York
Scrap Metal
Sugar
World War II

Description

Otsego County was first settled by Euro-Americans in the late 18th century. These families farmed in order to prosper and some of their descendants remain in the same field of work today. Born in 1931 in Middlefield, New York, Leslie Rathbun is a seventh-generation farmer. His family was heavily involved in the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, otherwise known as the Grange. This agricultural organization originated after the Civil War and lobbied for legislation affecting farmers in America.

Throughout the mid to late 20th century, the Grange expanded their focus to encompass rural Americans generally instead of focusing on farmers specifically. This shift in focus broadened the order’s audience to affect more than farmers. Leslie was initiated in the order as a full member at the age of 14, the youngest age eligible. He then went on to become a prominent member of his community, serving on the boards of many organizations, not agricultural organizations exclusively.

A few positions Mr. Rathbun has held are Town of Middlefield Board Member, Baptist Church of Middlefield Trustee, President of Otsego Cooperative Extension, President of the Cherry Valley and Springfield Board of Education, Master of the local and county Grange Halls as a seventh degree member, Otsego Soil and Water Conservation District Board Chair, President of the Dairy League of Otsego County, and Middlefield Historical Association Historian. If there is an agricultural organization in Otsego County, there is a high likelihood that Mr. Rathbun has been involved with it in some capacity.

I interviewed Leslie about his childhood. He grew up in the midst of the Great Depression and during World War II. He describes his experiences with family members, his education, the effects of the war effort, and the economic and technological changes he saw come to his community. We closed the interview by discussing the current state of his community.

Leslie’s wife, Dorothy Rathbun, sat with us and contributed to the conversation a few times. Her voice was not picked up well by the recorder.

I have tried to reproduce many of the turns of phrase and colloquialisms of Leslie’s speech. I have also chosen to preserve some grammatical particularities. It is impossible, however, to accurately reproduce all of the details of Rathbun’s dialect and therefore researchers are encouraged to consult the audio recordings.

Creator

Dillon Eggleston

Publisher

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

Date

2019-11-14

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.8mB
audio/mpeg
26.5mB
image/jep
800x533 pixel

Language

en-US

Type

sound
image

Identifier

19-008

Coverage

Upstate New York
Schenevus, NY
1931-2019

Interviewer

Dillon Eggleston

Interviewee

Leslie Rathbun

Location

3272 County Highway 35
Schenevus, NY
12115

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program

Oral History Project Fall 2019


LR = Leslie Rathbun

DL = Dorothy Rathbun

DE = Dillon Eggleston


[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]


DE:

This is the November 14, 2019 interview of…

LR:

Leslie Rathbun

DE:

…by Dillon Eggleston for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course recorded in Leslie’s home in Schenevus, New York. Leslie, can you tell me about where and when you grew up?

LR:

I was born on April the ninth, 1931, right in the Depression. I was born in the Town of Middlefield [New York]. We lived near Roseboom [New York], which was our local center for trade, school, et cetera.

I grew up out of my time. My grandfather ran the farm when I was young and we had cows, sheep, horses, pigs, chickens, ducks, and geese. He was sort of the old school, we sold milk commercially, and we grew potatoes, shell beans, eight row flint corn for the chickens, the cows, and the horses. The usual crops were oats, barley, and hay. My grandfather was old school, he still did things the way he did when he was young; lot of handwork.

DE:

How many members were in your family?

LR:

I was an only child and we lived two miles from town, so there wasn’t a lot of activity when I was young. I pretty much grew up with adults. I started school in 1938 in Roseboom. I was seven years old when I started school. I used to go to school in the morning with my father when he took the milk to Roseboom and we had to be down there at seven o’clock to meet the milk truck. I had time to kill before school and I used to stay with my cousin. Then I walked home at night, it was two miles. That was before the days of Daylight Savings Time, it got dark before I got home.

As far as the farm operation was concerned, we used to provide meat for [Hardendorf’s(?)] Market in Cherry Valley. They’d buy lambs, or mutton, and we used to buy six pigs in the fall, six in the spring, when they were grown. When Hardendorf’s wanted a pig they’d let us know and they’d come and pick it up. We never got into beef with them, but it was pigs and sheep.

DE:

How much did you see your cousin?

LR:

One of them was in school with me. I was the youngest of that generation. Some were married and had children at the time I was going to school and I used to stay with them. I was there every morning before school started because we didn’t start until nine. It ran until four. I don’t ever remember school being closed for the weather. It didn’t matter if it snowed, or if it was cold, or what. We went to school and we stayed all day. The village as I remember it there were two churches, two stores, a cheese factory, but that was not operating in my memory.

DE:

Did you join any clubs when you were in school?

LR:

No, it was a one-room school and there were eight grades, the teacher taught all of them. You usually were advanced in education because you listened to the recitations from all the older kids. You absorbed a lot of that, I think we moved along faster than we do now maybe. There was one grade and it didn’t matter if you were fast, slow, or what you were. You were in that category. Teachers changed through the years, my first teacher passed away the second year I was in school. That year we had three or four substitutes through the year.

We made our own entertainment. We used to have a half hour of recess in the morning and half hour in the afternoon. We had an hour at noontime. At noontime we’d go off up across the fields and we used to skate. We’d go far enough away that [a substitute teacher] rang the bell at one o’clock. It took us a while to get back, not that we hurried. She got smart, she rang it five minutes early. The school bell is how everybody in town kept time. Pretty soon everybody’s clocks were off, she was not popular in town. She disrupted things tremendously.

DE:

How did you become involved with the Grange Hall?

LR:

My parents joined the Grange in 1934, I believe. The Grange was organized in 1917 in Roseboom. They met in a schoolhouse the first meeting and I don’t know where they met after that for a while, but they bought Bailey’s Shoe Shop and they converted that into a Grange Hall. That was their home until 1933 when it burned. Sometime in ’33 or ’34, they purchased what was known as the Mill Property in Roseboom. In 1935 they built a new Grange Hall. It was masonry block construction, first story and wood framed second story. The Hall was dedicated in January of 1936. The State Master was there and dedicated the Hall. Apparently there was a lot of reminiscing about that. It was 26 degrees below zero when the festivities were over. One of the members had a Model A Ford car and that was the only thing out there that really started. He said he pushed a lot of luxury cars that night to get them running to go home. The Grange continued until 1991 when it was closed due to lack of members and just general economics.

I joined the Grande in 1945 when I was fourteen that was the minimum age to join. I went on to join the Pomona Grange with the fifth degree, the county Grange. I joined the State Grange in ’46 or ’47. I became a national member in …

DR:

’56.

LR:

’56. The Grange has pretty much been an activity my wife and I have been involved in all our lives, actually, from the time we were eligible to join. We have served on all three levels, subordinate, Pomona, and State Grange. Most recently, my wife and I have been co-chairmen of one of the State Grange committees. We’ve attended State Grange for several years – we didn’t go this year, but we had been for several years. Dorothy was a Farmer Junior Deputy, I never got involved that far but the farm interfered with that.

I don’t know as there’s anything significant about school days, except maybe discipline. We had a boy when I first started school, I think he probably was about sixteen or seventeen, he was really a man grown, and he was a little bit of a problem to the teacher. One morning they had a little problem and he had a ball bearing off from some machine. It was a whole race; he was spinning it around and it made a lot of noise. She told him to bring it up to the desk and so he did but before he got up there – and I don’t know if he did it deliberately or not – but it all came apart and all the balls ran all over the room. Created a great deal of chaos. She and he went outside and she came back but he didn’t. Came recess time and we didn’t have a recess that morning. Just before noontime, she went out and he came back with her. He always claimed that she took him out to the woodshed and tied him up. I don’t know if that was true or not, but that’s what he said.
After sixth grade I went to Cherry Valley. I graduated from there. I think the year I started was the last year they had seventh and eighth grade in Roseboom. After that it was just the first six grades.

DE:

How did you feel about the discipline back in those days?

LR:

It happened. If you were told to do something, you’d better do it. I think the state law back in those days was they could use a rubber hose on your legs. I never saw that done but I believe that was the standard punishment. Although some students tell about getting their hand rapped with a ruler. Physically I don’t ever remember anything, or maybe you were escorted to your seat, but that would have been the extent of that.

My father went to school in the Gaylor district, which was probably two miles from where we lived, the same as distance Roseboom and that school closed at the end of 1938 or ’39, I believe. It was down to only two students. They contracted with Cherry Valley for a while but they finally closed the district. I remember walking home, that was the biggest thing. It was an everyday affair. Course today you wouldn’t dare do that, but nobody thought anything about our walking out in the countryside by ourselves. There was nobody else that went in my direction so I was always alone. Well, as soon as I left the village I was alone, there was some kids that lived in the village.

The farm economy was considerably different than it is now. My father worked for his father for a percentage of the milk check. I know there was a time when it was only ten dollars a month. Somewhere along those times my parents bought a Ford Model T Car. He bought it from his brother-in-law. He paid seventy-five dollars for it. I don’t know how they got seventy-five dollars together, but they did. They purchased a few things, they must have really saved their pennies to do it. We always had chickens. My father and mother always took eggs to the store and traded them for staple products. If my mother wanted molasses, she’d send a quart jar down with my father and they pumped it out of a big wooden barrel. The oysters used to come in gallon cans, I think. If you wanted oysters you sent a clean jar down, and they’d put the oysters in it. You’d buy them by the quart. Everything that came from the store was wrapped in paper tied in a string.

DR:

Even cottage cheese.

[TRACK 1, 15:40]

LR:

Everything was pretty much in bulk in the store. Spaghetti came in big boxes. You weighed out what you wanted and it’d be wrapped up in brown paper and tied with a string. I remember when sliced bread came on the shelf. Before it just used to come in a loaf and you’d cut it off. That was a big deal to some people. A lot of people made their own bread, they didn’t buy from the store. Cookies used to come in bulk. Things like Oreos and so on they came in a big square box. Every store had a rack that a box fit into that had a glass cover on it so they could take out five pounds, or three pounds, or whatever you wanted. Sugar was in bulk. That went in a bag, it wasn’t just a brown paper deal. Everything was weighed out. I don’t think the store sold milk. A lot of people had a family cow and sold milk to their neighbors. My grandfather used to sell milk to the Neal family. They had a family cow but when the cow was dry they used to buy milk from my grandfather. They had a nail keg set out by the road in front of the house and when my father or grandfather would come back from taking the milk, there’d be a quart jar in that nail keg with a dime in it, that was for the quart of milk. The next morning you’d take it back and put the jar in the barrel when you went by. There were a dozen family cows in town. People just had one cow. They must have bought hay for the cow; I don’t know how that all worked. We were in a different situation with our farm; we had milk there. Of course, you provided crops for the cows.

I’ll go back a little bit to the Grange again. That was the center of activity in town. The churches were there, but the Grange Hall, that was a family deal. Everybody went. I don’t ever remember the question coming up in our house, “Are we going to Grange tonight?” because we went. We met twice a month. There was nobody to leave me with at home because my grandfather didn’t live with us. So when we first went to Grange, my father used to carry me. It used to be two miles if we went around the road, but when we walked we crossed lots and cut it about in half. We’d walk from our place to my uncle’s and my uncle helped carry me. When I got big enough that they couldn’t carry me anymore we used to go with a horse sometimes. It was the only opportunity my mother ever had to get off the hill. There was nothing else except the Grange that she went to for the entire winter. She was isolated, and most of the farm women were. The men went to town every morning, took the milk, but the ladies didn’t get off the hill very often.

I don’t remember my grandmother, she died when I was only two. My grandfather died when I was ten and then my father took over the farm and he soon bought a tractor, got rid of the sheep, all the other animals they had, ducks and turkeys and geese. But they continued to grow the shell beans and eight row flint corn. The shell beans were a cash crop. They’d pull them when they were dry and my father would thresh them with a flail on the barn floor. Then, they’d winnow them; they’d pour, take them from one bucket to another, let the wind blow, get some of the crap out. My mother would sit in the kitchen at a card table and she’d use a fork. She’d dump the beans on the table and she’d sort them. The good beans went in a pan on her lap and the stones and any crap went off to the side. When they got a five-gallon pail full of them and traded them in. They bartered. I have no idea what they got for them, probably wasn’t much. The things we bought were flour and sugar. Otherwise we were pretty much self-sufficient.

DE:

Had your family been involved with farming before your grandparents’ generation?

LR:

About five generations, I think all the Rathbuns were farmers. The first Rathbuns came to Springfield in 1787. I’m probably the seventh generation of farmers. My mother’s family were farmers too. We talk about careers today and students trying to figure out what they’re going to do. I don’t ever remember thinking about that. It was a natural thing that I was going to be a farmer because my father was. You were sort of in that rut. Both of the farms actually grew hops, but not in my memory. The hop houses were still there on all the farms. Not many of those left today.

DE:

What do you think about people thinking more about careers as opposed to how you grew up?

LR:

Well, a lot of people went into professional careers that in my day would not have happened. Technology today has given them a lot of advantages. I think there’s some good, some bad. I think we educate our kids to leave here because there’s nothing to keep them here. You give them an education to do something and then there’s not an opportunity to use it. So they move away, which I think is a dilemma right now. I don’t know if there’s a way to change that or not. We like to think that there’s some things we can do, but the reality of it is there’s just not the employment here.

Back when I was a kid, we had a lot of men who worked by the day for different farmers. If you needed something you stopped down to the store in the morning and there was somebody there who wanted to work today. You might contract them by the week, or the month, or something, but for the most part there were just a lot of day laborers. Some of them were retired farmers. It seemed like everybody retired, sold their farm, and moved to the village. There was a constant turnover of people. There was no Social Security in those days, you had to provide for yourself. And people did, they seemed to survive anyway.

DE:

How did your work differ from your family members on the farm?

LR:

You mean when I was farming?

DE:

Mmhmm

LR:

When my parents were on the farm everything was hand labor. If you had eight row flint corn, you cut it with a corn knife and loaded it onto a wagon. A tremendous amount of physical labor. We depended on the weather just as we do now. You couldn’t control it then, you can’t now. Just the physical labor I think was probably the biggest thing. Mechanization has changed the whole picture. Maybe we were just as well off in those days as we are now, maybe better, because there wasn’t a divide in people. Everybody that lived in town had something, maybe not a lot, but there wasn’t a big division between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Everybody was pretty much equal in town. Some had more than others, but we didn’t have any millionaires in town.

DE:

What’s been the biggest difference with mechanization?

LR:

Debt! [laughs] When my grandfather ran the farm, if you were in debt, that was a bad thing. His biggest worry all his life was he’d end up in the poorhouse, that he couldn’t provide for himself. Today, we live on credit. We got a lot of farms that if they had to pay it off, they’d go bankrupt. We got some big farms. I think they’re only paying the interest on a loan, I don’t think there’s principle paid back. The bank is not going to take a bath with them if they can keep them paying interest, at least they’ve got something coming in. As far as retiring loans today, I don’t think that’s happening much. We got all the mechanization, but we don’t have any more free time. Everybody is flat out for the most part, farmers. We survived as a family farm. Our kids subsidized labor. Back when I was a kid, everybody worked. There was something that everybody could do. If it was only filling the wood box after school at night, that was a job that always fell to kids. We burnt wood in those days. We had the woodlot and we cut it and burned it. Warmed you twice. When I was a kid, my parents did a lot of things. They made maple syrup, sold it. Most every farm had a maple bush. That was before the days of evaporators and reverse osmosis and all that. You boiled it outside in an open pan and hoped you didn’t get too many bugs into it or something. I’ve heard my father tell about my grandfather used to say he liked to make maple sugar for Aunt Rachel who lives in Ohio. He’d make a hundred pounds of maple sugar, ship it out to her, and she’d send him back a bank draft for a hundred dollars. That was a big, big, deal! She apparently married a wealthy man and they had money. I say we were self-sufficient, we had maple syrup. My mother used to can. She used to pick wild strawberries, they’re the size of a pea. I remember having quarts of those down in the cellar. I don’t know how tough it is to fill a quart jar, but she worked all summer canning, from the time strawberries came out in the early summer…

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

…until they froze up in the fall, she was always canning something. That’s how we lived.

DE:

She would get them into buckets and then who would take them to sell them in town?

LR:

The beans?

DE:

The beans, the strawberries.

LR:

The strawberries she didn’t sell. Those were for us. The beans, my father probably took them to the store and she had a list of things she needed. It was a case of you hoped you took enough product to cover what you were buying. I don’t think that happened probably. There was always a cash difference in the barter. The store in those days sold about everything. You could buy rubber boots or dungarees. They had a big barrel of kerosene; of course, everybody had lamps in those days when I was a young kid. Electricity had come to the village prior to when I was born, but not a lot before that. We never had electricity or telephones before I was fourteen. There was no future for the electric company to run lights to farms. Turned out they were the biggest consumers in the end. They just worked with homes mainly. As I remember the town, everybody who sold their farm came to town. The town was predominantly grey-haired people. Weren’t a lot of young people in town; a few. For the most part, the young people all lived out on farms, they were outside the village.

DE:

How did electricity affect your family’s farming practices or daily life?

LR:

First off you had lights to see, to do things by. If you had electricity, you had running water, you probably had an indoor bathroom then, which was not around much when I was a kid. You had a two-holer or a three-holer out back and that sufficed. A few people burned coal, and for the most part everybody burned wood. It wasn’t a free commodity, but everybody had a woodlot. In fact, I remember my father selling parts of woodlots, two hundred foot square, or something, and people would buy that and cut the wood off from it, if they didn’t have a woodlot of their own.

DE:

What do you remember most vividly from your childhood?

LR:

That we couldn’t have everything we wanted. Your wants and needs were two different things. When World War II came along, a lot of things changed then. Two of the things I remember: we had ration books. The schoolteacher was the one who signed people up for ration books. You had to declare what you had on hand. If you had ten pounds of sugar, they probably took a couple stamps out of the book. Gasoline was rationed. You had to make an application and you got an allotment. When it was gone, it was gone. We didn’t do much traveling in those days. Of course most of our traveling was done with horses anyway. In the wintertime, the roads weren’t plowed and we left the car down in the village in somebody’s barn. If you wanted to go to town, besides Roseboom, you drove the horses down and put them in the barn and took the car and went to Cooperstown, or wherever you went. We came back and then we took the horses to get back home again. Horses were the main transportation for ninety percent of the people at that time. Few people in town had a car. You asked me a question and I don’t know if I answered it all the way.

DE:

I asked you what was the vivid part of your childhood. You had mentioned rationing.

LR:

When World War II came along it was ration books, it was two things I said. The other thing was war bonds. We bought war bonds. As a kid if I got twenty-five cents I bought a stamp. When you got eighteen dollars and seventy-five cents in the book, stamps, you could turn it in and get a twenty-five dollar war bond. It took me a year sometimes to get eighteen dollars and seventy-five cents together. I remember it took a long, long time before you got a war bond. When World War II came along, it changed everybody’s life. Everybody sacrificed. The people today would never, ever do the things that we did during World War II. The farm women collected fat from cooking. You put it in a can and took it someplace; they used it in munitions. My wife’s telling me something.

DR:

Tin cans, flattened.

[TRACK 2, 8:30]

LR:

Every piece of metal was saved and used. If you could buy a can of pork and beans, maybe, when you were done you washed it out, you cut both ends out of it, and flattened it so it didn’t take up a lot of space. It was a collection of that kind of stuff all the while. People just did without. Of course there was a black market. I remember my mother’s parents, who were farming. My grandfather used to take eggs to the store in Richfield Springs. My grandmother would send a list with him, what she wanted or needed. He took the eggs to the store and he left the crate there. While he was doing some other business there, the grocer would take them out, put them in his own containers. When my grandfather came back, the man would tell him he owed him three dollars or whatever it was. My grandfather paid him but he didn’t look in the box until he got home. Sometimes there’d be a pound of coffee in there, which my grandmother hadn’t ordered. It was a welcome thing to have, because it was rationed. But this grocer had the connections that he could get black market stuff. While it was illegal, it went on all the time, I think.
You had to have a voucher for everything. When I wanted to get a bicycle so I could ride to school and back, we had to go to the OPA office, Office of Price Administration. You had to fill out a form and you might, if there was dire need, they might give you a certificate to buy something. The guy that ran the garage, he did his best to keep everybody’s car running, that he could. The car he was driving was old and he needed a tire bad. He ran them down until the canvas showed or they blew out. He went over to the OPA office and he wanted to get a permit to buy a tire. So the lady in the office says “Well what’s the mileage on your car?” and he said it was thirty-one thousand. She says “You can’t have any tires because most people would make them go forty-five thousand miles.” He said, “The damn car’s got a hundred and thirty-five thousand miles on it, the odometer only went to a hundred and then it rolled over!” Those are the kind of things we contended with.

I did get a permit to buy a bicycle. The best we could find was a secondhand that somebody had run over with a car. It did suffice, I did learn to ride it.

DE:

How did you learn how to ride your bike?

LR:

On a dirt road, I just got on and tipped over a while. It was a not very good place to ride, a lot of loose stones and stuff. We all learned to ride, it probably took some skinned knees and elbows. Everybody had a bicycle, I don’t remember a boy that didn’t have a bicycle of some kind.

DE:

How often would you or your family go down to the OPA?

LR:

I don’t remember it happening half a dozen times during that period of time. Rubber boots were one of the things you couldn’t buy unless you had a priority slip. You had wet feet some of the time, I’m sure. We didn’t have plastic bags in those days to put inside your boots like we could today. I don’t remember anybody in my family that was looking for tires. We were very limited in how much we could use the car. Horses did most of the work.

DR:

Sugar substitutes.

LR:

Oh yes, one of the things you could buy was sucrette. They were crystals. Dino was also a brand and that was the same kind of stuff. It was very fluffy, it didn’t have much substance to it. A lot of people used saccharine, of course now we know that’s not a good thing for us, but during the war that was one of the sweeteners people used in coffee. Saccharine tablets, you’d drop in a cup of coffee. Oleo came into the picture, vegetable shortening, margarine, that kind of stuff. Butter was rationed. Newco was one of the brands I remember. It came in a plastic bag, it was white and looked like lard. There was a capsule inside of the bag and you could break that and that made it yellowy. We would sit there and knead the whole thing until it got yellow. During the war, we did without most everything. Everything went to the war effort. You sold all the old machinery you had, if there was any scrap metal. There was a big market for it. I guess we sold it to Japan and they shot it back at us.

We used to collect newspapers, cardboard, you talk about recycling, we did it in those days. One of the things we did as kids, are you familiar with milkweeds?

DE:

Mmhm.

LR:

You know that pod, when it pops open, all that fluffy stuff? We picked those and they used it to make aviator jackets with, for insulation. That white fuzzy stuff that’s in there. We picked them, I don’t know where they went, but we took them to school when you got as many as you could find. They used them somewhere as insulation.
I’ve seen pictures of the school here in Middlefield, the pile of scrap that the kids had collected around the town. Anything that was metal they brought into school and the junk dealer came and picked it up. I don’t know anything about how it happened to recycle metal. Everybody had a connection of some kind.

DR:

All the girls were told to knit to make granny squares, scarves, socks.

LR:

Oh yeah, everybody knitted mittens and socks for the guys overseas. I don’t remember if it was anything besides socks and mittens, they might have done scarves. I remember they tried to make a quilt in our school. Everybody brought in material, but there wasn’t much that was really quilt ready. They were all different sizes and materials. I remember they were sewing them together, but I don’t think it ever became a quilt.

DE:

What was your parents’ reaction to the war effort?

LR:

I think we participated along with everybody else. They used maple syrup as a sweetener. There got to be a lot of recipes that used maple syrup or molasses. Molasses was easier to come by, I don’t think it was rationed but probably there was a limited amount of it. Somewhere I’m sure they used that in the war effort.

One of the things we could buy was karo syrup. That was a corn product, I think, and that’s still around today I believe. That was one of the things that was not on the ration list. I don’t know anything about why, but I know that sugar and that stuff was hard to come by, especially white sugar.

DE:

How did your life change after the war?

LR:

It was a big relief when everybody could buy anything they wanted, if they could find it. There was a time after the war that manufacturing got geared up to do something besides the war effort. As I remember, my father bought a used tractor, but the people that bought new ones went to the dealer and got their names on a list. When one came, they got it. We were free. Everything was going. You were able to buy gas, you could buy tires. It took a while before manufacturing got geared up to do peacetime manufacturing.

DE:

How did the Grange Hall respond?

LR:

When the Grange was originally formed, they were purchasing agents. There are records of the Grange in Westville that used to buy flour by the barrel. Plaster was one of the things they bought in volume and the members would buy it from the Grange. That would have been World War I, when that was over was when the Grange began to prosper. They were in the purchasing business for a long time. The Grange in Worcester, they had a store. They had a lot of commodities. In Westville, all I remember hearing about was they bought plaster. This stuff all came in a barrel.

DR:

Mount Vision had a store too.

LR:

Most of the Granges were involved in purchasing deals to help farmers.

Their original purpose was legislation. They were very influential in rural free delivery, getting that passed through Congress. It worked with railroads a lot, to reduce monopoly and get better rates. That’s still a lot of the Grange’s focus, rural legislation, more or less. One of the purposes of the Grange, I remember the quote…
“…to educate and elevate the American farmer.” The Grange became a mode of information for people. There was a National Grange Monthly publication just for grangers.

DE:

How has your life changed since the Grange has closed?

LR:

What’s changed in town?

DE:

MmHm.

LR:

I think the comradery with the Grange members. They were all the same type of people, they were all farmers for the most part originally. Later on, as we became a more rural organization, other people joined that weren’t farmers. That was a sort of center, when things happened in our community, it was at the Grange. There used to be a big Fourth of July celebration in town and the Grange sponsored that. Those things sort of all died away. I think the people who’re the movers and doers got old. There’s not the cohesiveness of people. Everybody’s for themselves anymore it seems. You’ll find some granges where they have real community interest. There’s just not the feeling, the connection between people there used to be.

There’s too many other things now. You have the television, you have the computer, and if you’ve got children the school uses up your time. Everybody’s got to be a part of the drama club, or sports, or something. There’s not the family time there used to be. I don’t think that’s all bad it just isn’t there.

DE:

What do you see there being for young people nowadays?

LR:

I’m glad I’m not young. I think it’s going to be tough. I’ve lived through the best times. Although the economy’s looking better now than it has. Technology has come into the picture. I guess I’m of the old school at this point, I’m not sure it’s all been good for us. Tremendous number of things it’s been beneficial for. I’m not sure that conversation wise this cohesiveness between people has been replaced by email, texting. Some things have gotten easier and some things have gotten harder.

DE:

Can you tell me more about that?

LR:

I think we have a lot more things that we would consider luxuries. People have gotten that confused with needs. You talk about credit card debt and what that is for the average person, I just can’t fathom that kind of thing; it’s the times. I can’t understand being further in debt than what you have. People’s equity is not big enough to cover their debt anymore. It used to be you went to the bank and pledged security and now all you got to do is put the plastic through the machine and you’re set. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Credit’s been too easy. With the government, credit’s been too easy there too if you look at the trends. I think I’ve run down. I hope you’ve got something you can use.

DE:

Oh we’ve got plenty. Thank you for inviting me into your home today.

LR:

Want a cup of coffee?

DE:

Sure, I’ll take one, thank you.

Duration

29:59 - Track 1
27:35 - Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128kbps

Files

Rathbun_Eggleston_Profile.JPG

Citation

Dillon Eggleston, “Leslie Rathbun, November 14, 2019,” CGP Community Stories, accessed October 22, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/400.