August 1926 and Christmas

Ruth 8/5/26

The Rev. “Dad” & Maude Smith came to stay on their way to Central City.  As you know Maude was quite a friend of mine.  Maude had her hair bobbed; no time to keep long hair when she has all the housework to do.  They seem to be happy together however I wouldn’t want Dad for my husband.  Really he says some very crude things to her that I don’t think he should.  I’m too much a crank for good manners but it makes such a difference.  He calls her “the misses” and I don’t like that.  Anyway I’m glad you are mine and not someone elses.  You’d probably have discovered by this time that you would have a difficult time dropping me for someone else now if you wanted to.

Here he is - the Rev. Dad Smith!

Here he is – the Rev. Dad Smith!

Ruth 8/18/26

I went to visit Ruth, my cousin.  Every time I visit her I declare I never want to be married if I must live as she does.  It is nice to have your own house and a darling baby – what girl doesn’t want that – but to be so poverty stricken seems most unbearable.  Of course with the best man in the world ….

I got a letter from Lillian.  She had said something about rooming together, but now she is going to Kearny.  Leone Drinkall wrote to me about a girl who wants to room with me.  She sounds all right so I’m willing to take a chance.  No one could have gotten along better than Billy and me.  We were enough alike not to clash.

Ruth 8/25/26

I’ve been around a bit since I last wrote.  Monday Dad took us to the circus.  Imagine us big kids going to the circus.  I can’t say I particularly liked to see girls playing with snakes and swallowing swords and such things.  That was the side show.  The main show was good but there was so much to see that I couldn’t watch it all.  Those performers certainly have wonderful bodies and such endurance I never saw. I think I’ve had enough circus for a lifetime.

John, I hate the city and hope that  never have to live in one.  I think I would die like a caged bird.  On our way to the circus we passed through one of the horridest parts of the city.  The people seemed to be mostly negroes and the places in which they lived (I should say exist)!  People shouldn’t live in such hovels.  Of course the city isn’t all like that but I abhor it and would feel so cooped up.  Smaller towns are not so bad but deliver me from big cities.

I am so proud of my music pupils.  Last week they were awful but this week they made it all up.  Yes, dear, music does affect me greatly and brings me much happiness.  I went to a temperance play in Allen.  It was very good showing forcefully the evil of whiskey.  I saw the first drunk man in my life that day at the circus.  It was so sickening and pitiful.  Why men degrade theselves so much and make such a spectacle of themselves.  His wife probably had golden dreams as I have now and then to have her beloved become like that.  I offer up a prayer that you are not like that.  It is a blessing that the saloons were out lawed and may they never return.

Ruth 8/29/26

Merl and Mother are talking about this problem of making a living.  I am in a questioning mood again tonight – so many things seem beyond my grasp.  Perhaps it will be a good thing to get back to school and studying again.  I am still having the same old struggle: to teach or not to teach.  I think I have it settled and then I go to battle again.  I want to SO badly but I can’t settle for sure.   I guess I’ll have to talk it out with Dad.   He ought to settle it for me for sure.  Merl starts his job in another week.  He has a lot laid out for him to do and they are expecting great things from him at Plainview.  I sincerely hope he can live up to their expectations.  He feels confident since he had such success with the boys in Camp Sheldon.

Merl with new Ford

Merl with new Ford

Ruth 8/13/26

If this letter gets jazzy blame it on the radio, not me.  I’ve got the radio head phones over m ears and listening to some snappy jazz by my favorite jazz player from Omaha.  She sure has some songs such as “Give Me a Litle Kiss, Will Ya Huh?” A note from Ralph’s history:  In the winter of 1925-26 Dad bought our first radio.  It was a GE consisting of two separte boxes to be wired together.  It also had a separate speaker shaped like an old phonograph horn.  I used to sit up late at night with ear-phones and listen to Calgary, Canada.

I’m getting to be some seamstress. I made myself a dress.  Had a little trouble but Mother helped me out as mother’s have a way of helping.  I know the skirt is all of 3 miles around, at least it is a long way around when one is hemming it.  Got your letter and you certainly give me something to think about.  It is well worth your while to get me thinking otherwise my mind would become quite stale with the daily routines of regular work and musing over the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

Ruth 8/22/26

School will start soom but I don’t feel like I’m ready to go back. You should hear Merl “rave” about Mrs. Carrell’s bobbed hair.  He thinks she looks simply horrid.  I can’t imagine how she must look.  Also Mrs. Matson  My, my they all come to it sooner or later I guess.  Mrs Carrell must be getting to be quite a flapper, what do you think??

Dear, I can not tell you what your life work should be – it is for you alone to choose.  I only beg of you to consider very, very carefully before you decide.  If you feel that the work in the ministry is the thing you would like then choose it.  I have never envied the position of a minister’s wife but of course that has no bearing on the question.  You may rest assured you have my support in anything.

Ruth 9/1/26

Merl was in town and came back with the news that Billy (Ruth former NCC roommate) was wearing a “sparkler”.  Merl saw the ring but didn’t think it was very pretty.    Well, I’m glad she is the one that is going to get him and not me.  I don’t like him.  The whole family was invited to Clements for dinner but Dad is still threshing and gets home so late.   Mother made just Merl and me go.  I hate that old threshing machine of Dad’s and wish he’d get rid of it.  When he starts threshing the rest of the family might as well give up all thoughts of anything else.

I still have some sewing to do.  You’ll think I’m like Rosie Bean in the comics if I keep telling you about my clothes.  In the comic the young man decided to propose to Rosie one evening.  Upon arriving at her house he over heard a messenger boy trying to collect a bill from Rosies’s father for clothes she had ordered amounting to over $800.  That took the wind out of the poor man’s sails so he didn’t propose.  There, my dearest, you have fair warning of what I am like so you can’t say I didn’t warn you.  Only I’m not quite a bad as Rosie.

Don't know if this is one of the dresses she made - not one of my favorites.  How handsome was Ralph???

Don’t know if this is one of the dresses she made – not one of my favorites. How handsome was Ralph???


John 8/1/26

A long week. Perhaps it is because of the conflicts between Catholicism and the government of Mexico. You may wonder what that would have to do with the this week. The daily paper have been filled with reports of the conflict thereby stimulating the minds of my father and brother to discussion of their hatred for Catholics at the supper table in the presence of the children. After hearing my father talk of killing, fighting and chasing Catholics my smaller brothers and sister were talking about what they would do to any Catholic children who they might play with. They would stone them and kill everyone of them. See the problems I must deal with? I have managed with great difficulty to hold my peace but only with terrific inward struggle. The family just think I am simply foolish for holding the ideas I have but I’m afraid I will always be a fool then in their sight.

John 8/8/26

Last night I went to Central to the college where I met Merl. I went with Merl to Alda where Merl and Lillian gave reports of the conference at church. They had to leave right away to get back to a family reunion dinner. I am happy to know you think of me as you do and I will always be “your best man”. I am surprised that a girl such as you would make me their choice, you can’t realize how unworthy I feel. Do you realize that one year has passed since, down by the river one beautiful day, the happiest day yet experienced by me, you promised to be mine? It seemed a long time then to wait and it still does, but one year has been happily spent. It won’t be long at that rate. Nearly all the men in Alda have left to find work at a beet sugar factory some where in the west part of the state. Conditions around Alda are critical; no crops, no jobs, no hope.

John 8/10/12

Three of the section men have promised to go to church next Sunday with me. We got to talking yesterday about joining the church and on said “It takes guts to join and go up before a group of people to the alter” Just as if that was necessary. One man said “Johnny if you can connect this section gang you will have done more than any preacher ever could.” If I can help but one I will be happy.

John 8/15/26

Last Wednesday evening Lawrence, two co-workers and I went fishing with a sack in Wood River. However we are still “holding the sack”. All we caught was about 29 crawdads in one haul. Needless to say we had an immense amount of fun. Thursday evening I played horse shoes with the champion of our county. He works here on the section too and is certainly a happy-go-lucky, jolly fellow. Of course he always beats me but I am improving steadily. I got out all your old letters and read them all over. Especially was I interested in comparing those you wrote just about a year ago. I can certainly notice a difference in your writing and I am glad you are the way you are now. (Rachel’s note: the difference is that by 1926 the letters are much mushier – true love letters – I’m only sharing the history parts!)

John 8/18/26

I’m afraid I won’t know you when I see you if you have increased to 3 yds in circumference since I saw you last. Maybe though you were just foolin. My boss is a pretty level headed man but he questions the biblical narrative of the creation of man. He has reasons that are quite logical. He stated that he believed there was a Master Mind running the universe or perhaps a Master Force and this force was electricity. I can’t agree with him but try if you can to realize how such statements spoken directly to me stimulated my creative thought powers. And again try to realize my inability to meet such arguments adequately. By the way, my boss has a good knowledge of electricity. I have come to realize through my experience this summer how little I really know about what I believe.

I played horseshoes again and you know that I beat him once. Of course I’m not mentioning how many times he beat me. I hope to be able to bring brother Harold to school with me next year. He would only be in the tenth grad but I just can’t stand to see him finish high school here in Shelton in such an environment. Of course it will be quite an undertaking because it is all I can do now to send myself through school but if I can manage at all I certainly will. As to my sister Edith, it will be hard to convince her that she should go on to school. She will graduate this year but she detests the thought of going on to school. However I shall use all my powers of persuasion to get her to continue.

Edith Ferguson

Edith Ferguson

John 8/21/26

I am sorry to hear that Lillian will not attend Central next year. As to the question of a roommate I might pass on a little advise which was given to me that helped me when I was dissatisfied with the way my roommate attended to the upkeep of the room and his things. . However, I am happy to know that if one in our room this year does the teaching it will be Ralph because I feel my incapability in competing with him as an ideal mate. Every time you mention your ideal home it gives me a thrill and a beautiful sense of responsibility. I can’t think of anything that would bring greater happiness to me and to any home than that which children can bring. I think books and reading must effect me as music does you. Some day I want to have a good large library of my own in which I can read and read and read. (Rachel’s note: you got your wish, Dad)

John 8/24/26

I agree with you dear in that statement that I am not yet a man. I realize that I am far from it after having the experiences I have had this summer. There are so many things to do and here I am unable, because of the lack of something, to cope with them. However I am happy that you are mine while yet a boy and I am very, very thankful that you will be mine when I am a man…if I ever am one. A great day yesterday. The boss, another man, and I talked incessantly while we worked about poetry, literature, the general state of young people , school activities and how we met out “wives”. I mean, their wives and my promised one. They said that the kind of girl I pictured did not exist but I know from being in love with the best girl in the world that the ideal is not impossible.

John 8/30/26

I went to Central on Saturday and stayed with the Dr. & Mrs. Hull. On Sunday morning she made a big breakfast mostly of our garden and orchard labor. It certainly seemed fine to go out into the orchard and eat plums, apples and grapes to our hearts content. I hope someday that we can have a good orchard. I delight so in working with the trees and handling the fruits. (Rachel’s note: a wish that came true – our backyard in State College had apple, cherry, plum and peach trees as well as a grape arbor.)

I can’t quite agree with Merl in regard to the appearance of Mrs. Carrell and Mrs. Watson (wives of profs at NCC). I think they look much better since they have bobbed their hair. Yes Mrs. Carrell is getting to be quite a flapper. Imagine? Rolling her stockings and bobbing her hair. I wonder what is next? Maybe she will be shaving her legs and going with out stockings (the latest). I hope you don’t fall for the fad.

I too am glad of prohibition however it is disappointing that folk continue to break that law. Saturday one of them en who works for dad went home at noon and got so drunk on home made beer that he was unable to return to work. He has a wife and a baby girl. One of the young men I work with often tells me of his drunken experiences. I am very thankful that I never acquired that habit of drinking and you can rest assured that I never shall acquire it.

The Foxworthy’s are going to move to Alda. I’m sure they will be of great service to those fold at Alda. Alda has been shocked because Mr. Carraher, the banker there, hung himself last Sunday night. He hung himself after a family quarrel. His body was not found until Tuesday, when it was found by a search party hanging to a tree on the bank of the Wood river two miles south of town.

John 9/2/26

Only nine days until we can be together. I was going to be in school the first week but I think it will be more profitable for me to work that week. Although I am very anxious for school to begin, I was tempted not to go to school this year when my boss told me the other day that he would like for me to stay and work for him. Especially when I am at such a loss to know how my financial obligations are to be met it is a great temptation. I have given up this thought of the present at least and I intend to go to school money or no money. However, I may have to work next year but if it is a necessity then it can’t be avoided. This year I am going to school without any work in view and with no help from home and with scarcely enough money to finish the first semester. However I have the great assurance that God will provide so why worry or fret as long as I remain true. As for your plans, I would hardly know what would be best for you to do . I believe though that if it is at all possible for you to go to school that it would be the wiser thing for you to go and not teach. Honestly, I don’t think any one is qualified to teach after taking just one year of college. I am coming to realize more and more each day the truth of your statement that life is a great game which must be played.

John 9/5/26

Sometimes when I read your letters I wonder if I don’t take life too seriously. I wonder if I am too solemn and not jolly and out for a good time enough. What is your idea? But it seems when the needs of our world are so great and the responsibilities so heavy that it is only necessary to be serious. You didn’t tell me anything about your desire for fine clothing before that day you said you would be mine so maybe I should change my mind? I should say not. I know you are not unreasonable. Although I can’t look nice, I like to see you that way. I read that the retention of bodily beauty was a great factor in a happy marriage. Some folk seem to think that married life necessitates slouchiness but I don’t think it does. I don’t think that just because a couple weds gives the husband any right to shave only once a week or gives a wife the right to wear a dirty dress or go with her hair uncombed, do you?

John 9/8/26

I have my belongings packed. I am such anxiety to get to school again that everything seem in a turmoil. Last Sunday night I rode the train to Central City.  Its good to see so many friends again. Joseph Wright and Robert Deitrich are back. Lane and I stole Joes bedding at the dorm because we didn’t have any and then the battle began. We wrestled and played until late and finally retired keeping Joes blankets because he had locked our door and we couldn’t get out. The next morning Lane and I had to crawl out above the door as Joe had gone to work and left the door locked. Tell Ralph that we can have our old room back and that it is my choice too. I must get some so called “beauty sleep” however I don’t think sleep or anything else can make me beautiful. In regard to your new brand of rouge, I don’t know. If you delight in wearing it all right, but I don’t see the need of any artificial coloring. It can’t make you more beautiful I’m sure so why bother?

John 12/27/26 From Milwaukee, Wis. on a trip to a conference with Guy Solt

My first impression of the city of Milwaukee were pleasant. The Methodist minister informed us that although the city did not have the best reputation abroad it was an exceptionally chaise, moral and cosmopolitan city. From our observation what he said was true. The city is cosmopolitan because of a large foreign element. Milwaukee is the home of the Hole Proof Hosiery, Palmolive soap, and Zeigler candy bar companies. Guy and I intend to visit some of these factories. This has been one of the most remarkable days of my life; one I will never forget. This morning Guy and I reported to Miss Betzner, the author and director of the pagent we are to present. We found her in one of the largest buildings I have ever been in – the municipal auditorium. Why Ruth, you can have no idea of the magnificence and capacity of that building. It comprises six auditoriums under one roof, the smallest seating 300 and the largest 10,000. It is in this building that the main sessions of our conference will be held. Perhaps I can secure some postal pictures of the building that I can send you. I want you to enjoy Milwaukee with me. After marveling over such a structure we spent three hours walking over the city and along Lake Michigan while looking upon that immense body of water and watching the rising and swelling of the clear blue water and the breaking of the rolling waves as they came near the shore dashing the water along the shore with white capped waves. I could for the first time realize and understand why so many poets and composers have put they feelings as they watched the waves into poetry and song. Such sights mingled with the unseen far off whistle of the steams ship and the cool fresh air called forth the highest and purest thoughts within a person. Oh the wonderfulness of it! This afternoon we had pageant practice and again my marveling capacities were aroused. I’m so impressed that Miss Betzner composed the pageant herself. In the evening we went to the library and museum and, again, oh! the immensity of that building. When I get any where near such a innumerable number of books as are contained in that library I feel in regard to my knowledge like the ad on the BonAmi can “haven’t scratched yet”. The interior of the building is most beautifully designed in marble which makes one feel entirely that he is in paradise. The museum is one of the most marvelous and complete in the world. How much greater would be our education at home if we had only a very small portion of such a large collection as is in this museum.


4 thoughts on “August 1926 and Christmas

  1. Your’e doing an amazing and time consuming project.!! However ,the first 2 photos didn’t print, at least for me. I Ithink I have one of the “new car”..I’d forgotten that my mother had finished at Kearney.

    • I know…I am seriously crazy to be spending this kind of time, but I’m hooked! And also afraid that if I stop I won’t get back to it and now that I’m committed I want it all posted for posterity!

  2. When uncle merl went to Plainview to teach, he had a student named Willidine Mather. She liked the wayhe taught. She also hadaroaring crush on him never dreaming he would end her brother-in- law! Dale

    • Oh my gosh, that’s so interesting! For my kids who might be reading this, Mom’s brother Dale married the Willidine Daline mentions in her comment. Small world.

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