It was early morning on the farm. Dad hollers up the stairs, "It's Saturday, and were going to town!" On a South Dakota farm in the 1940's, these words were like music to farm-kids ears. This was a weekly event, except during the busy harvest time, when you might not go at all except for emergencies.
Getting ready to go to town involved a great deal of preparation. Before you could leave, the cattle had to be fed, the hogs slopped, eggs gathered, cows milked and cream separated. This was always a business-before-pleasure trip, so any equipment needing repair at the Blacksmith shop had to be loaded, eggs, milk and cream produced that week had to be prepared for town. Everyone on the family farm had to pitch in, and the anticipation of a trip to town made the kids more ambitious than any other weekday.
This trip also required the weekly bath. The rest of the week a quick wash up daily sufficed. My friend's dad used to say, "Wash down as far as you can, then wash up as far as you can, then wash "you can." This always made the kids laugh. Everyone wore freshly laundered clothing, neatly pressed by the farmer's wife earlier in the week. The farmer usually wore bib overalls with a white shirt; a tie was added for Sunday church. His wife wore a print dress, which she had probably sewn herself. The kids wore store bought jeans and shirts.
The whole town looked forward to the arrival of these families, and welcomed them with open arms, because their livelihood depended on the family farmer. The arrival in town was a social event for the farmer visiting the blacksmith shop. It's ironic the initials for Blacksmith are B.S. as that's what was thrown around the shop on a relaxed Saturday. The farmer's wife did her weekly grocery shopping and the kids headed for the creamery to indulge themselves in ten-cent double dip cones or twenty-five cent malts. Everyone acted like it had been longer than a week since they had seen each other, and with the farms so far apart, each week brought news from the neighbors.
As evening approached, my grandmother would ask me to drive her car downtown and get a good parking place on Main Street. The stores stayed open until 10:00 p.m. or later, and it was a Saturday night ritual to sit in the car and watch the people pass by. Everyone gave a friendly nod or wave as they passed by, unaware they might be the topic of a little friendly gossip.
After supper the kids would go to the movie. This was an affordable pastime as admission was only fifteen cents, and popcorn cost a dime. The farmer and his wife would go to the Tap Room, a few doors away, for a cold beer and conversation about the lack of, or too much rain, and the condition of the crops and livestock. The end of the movie signaled the family that it was time to go home. By then everyone was ready.
This was a time of gas lanterns, outdoor toilets, small tractors, family togetherness and good times. I'm glad I was there.
© 2002 Maurice D. Karst