The Way it Was – Excerpt

By Harold Myrick
(Written at age 82)

To my Family and Friends,

Our daughter, Ruth, had been asking me to write of my memories of the past, so I started writing things as I remembered them, but as I continued, it became more of a brief autobiography….

Things were much different back then.  We wouldn’t THINK of buying anything unless we could pay cash.  In 1930, I had saved enough to pay cash for my first car.  When we first married, wages were $2.00 a day.  We would put at least $5.00 a month in the bank.  We were well into our married life before we bought a car on time, thus creating a credit rating….

While shopping in Easthampton, [my wife,] Rose had gotten friendly with Dora Merchand.  We started visiting them in Southampton and Sundays to earn an extra dollar, I started picking apples with Clayton, her husband.  The next spring when his employer, Willard Howland, needed another man, I took the job.  We hated leaving Westhampton but Mr. Norris had told me that the house went with the job, so we were rather forced to leave.  I felt later a little bitter at Mr. Norris because he immediately rented our house to Ralph Payson who had never worked a day at Norris’s…

Ruth Ann was only a couple of months old when we moved to Southampton.  When Ruth Ann was born, I had gone home to gather sap as they said it would be some time before the baby would be born.  So a little after noon I was gathering sap in the Blakesley lot when Louise called to me to tell me we had a daughter.  That night during visiting hours, I went to the nursery and the nurse brought a baby to the window to show me.  I went back to Rose’s room and asked what was the matter with the baby as she was awfully dark.  Just then the nurse rushed into the room and said, “Mr. Myrick, I’m awfully sorry, but I showed you the wrong baby.”  She was a nurse who was full of the dickens and thought it was a big joke showing me a black baby.  I went back and she showed me the real Ruth Ann.

One can’t believe it today, but back then patients having babies were kept ten days.  Today they send them home right away.  What is more unbelievable was the cost.  The hospital cost was three dollars a day, or thirty dollars for the ten day stay. 

The third phase or chapter in my life started in May 1942, when we moved to Southampton and started working for Willard Howland. He furnished us with a house on Pomeroy Meadow Road belonging to Athe[r]ton Parson[s],  Mrs. Howland’s brother who at that time was living in Connecticut.  The work was much different than at Norris’s.

Willard was a go-getter.  Besides being an assessor and moderator for the town, he had a large Holstein herd of cows, and apple and peach orchardd and sold Surge milkers and Oliver farm equipment.  Instead of horses he had a six cylinder Oliver tractor with equipment for it.  My hours were 7 to 6.  I would have my breakfast, go to work and finish the milking that Willard had started.  He would then go to breakfast after I took over.  Then at 4:30 I would start the evening chores and be home by 6 which made good hours for farm work.

After a year’s time Athe[r]ton Parson[s] came back to town and wanted his house so Willard bought the Clark farm directly across from his house so we moved there.  At first all it had was a telephone, no electricity or bathroom, but Williard soon put in electricity, a bathroom and it made a nice place to live directly across from my work.  I enjoyed my work which was much more diversified that at Norris’s.  Besides the farming end, it was fun to assemble the different farm equipment that came in knocked down and had to be assembled.  About this time we started a roadside stand on the front porch.  Rose took charge during the week when I was working and Sundays our big, day I was available to help.  From the the farm, we sold apples, peaches, potatoes, squash, glads, and sweet peas.  Willard would go to the Farmers Wholesale Market in Springfield and buy up a lot of things that we didn’t raise.  It was quite a profitable venture and lasted several years.

Back in the ’40’s there was little traffic on College Highway and it was a good thing. We had a large field [and] where the housing for the Elderly and the Country Apartments are located … we had corn and potatoes.  Across the road from those fields was the town dump.  Today it is all residential.

Another big field was what we called over east which was on Strong Road where we had corn and hay fields.  Up back of the Swazey house were the peach and apple orchards.  The pastures were back of our house in the Clark lot and down East Street next to the Manhan River.  Willard had his two son, Richard, who’s (sic) job it was to feed the cows hay and ensilage and John, who’s (sic) job it was to drive the cows to pasture and get them at night, so it made it easy for me as I only had to milk.  We were making about thirteen 40 quart cans of milk from about 30 cows. 

in 1945 Willard decided he didn’t want to nursemaid a bunch cows all his life so he decided to have an auction.  He kept one cow which I took care of and milked and we had enough milk for both families.

So, after nearly twenty five years, my farm work was over.