Rural Hinton couple shares Depression Christmas memories

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Charles and Betty Pridie seen here on the patio of their rural Hinton farm home say that their growing up during the Depression has offered meaningful, and memorable, experiences.

Betty Pridie placed a plate of Christmas cookies and homemade fudge on the table.

Filling a visitor's coffee cup she smiled at her husband, Charles, seated across the table at the couple's rural farm home west of Hinton.

A bit of winter was attempting to slip in as a mix of precipitation cast a haze outside the Pridie farmhouse where the couple has lived since 1952. Betty's parents, the late Clara and Herbert Burnett, bought the original 80-acre farm site when she was 13 during as she said the Depression years.

Cornstalk bales, properly baled and tested for acceptable non-toxic nitrate levels have become a welcome feeding option for cattle producers in wake of Iowa's summer drought. This one observed adjacent to Plymouth County road C-60, in Plymouth County, is but one of many taken from northwest Iowa corn fields this fall.

Charles Pridie, recalled his father-in-law's account of the purchase.

"It was in 1932. He paid $40 per acre for the land putting $200 down on the purchase price. The fellow who arranged the sale told my father-in-law he'd never get the land paid for."

Burnett was, however, to prove the salesman wrong paying off the farm in 10 years.

His daughter remembers the salesman later shaking her father's hand.

"He told him he wanted to shake the hand of a man who khows what he's doing," she said.

The Pridies in looking back on what it was like growing up in the Depression, talked of the Christmases of the troubled '30s.

"Those were very meager times," Betty said. "Probably one of my earliest memories of those Christmases is the nine pennies I was given by my grandmother. She had this little coin purse that she took them from and handed them to me.

"I thought I was rich with my nine pennies," she added. "We never had a lot of gifts like kids do now. We used to get one toy."

Growing up as one of five children Christmas would also include the apple, orange and candy found in the children's Christmas stockings hung up in their farm home.

"This was really a wonderful treat for all of us," she said.

Not to be overlooked as well, Betty suggested, was the family togetherness around their Christmas tree.

"We'd trim it the old-fashion way stringing the popcorn to use as a way of decorating it," she said.

Christmas morning would often mean a special treat, perhaps a carrot for the horses used at the time on the farm or other of the family's livestock. A treat also awaited the family's dog, she said.

Still another of the memories is that of the school Christmas programs including recitations by the students.

"These were pretty simple programs," Betty suggested that were typical of a time when the country school students of all grades learned from each other.

"When we later went on to school in town we saw this as an advantage over the other students in our class because of our shared learning experiences," she said.

Her recollections of the school programs were to prompt the added memory of getting ready for the Christmas programs with insight into the days of fewer household conveniences including electricity.

"Mother would always, when we had a program, fix my hair," Betty explained. "And how did she do it? We didn't have lights or electricity in those days. It meant holding a curling iron over the chimney of a kerosene lamp (used for light) to warm the iron and to then curl my hair."

Charlie, meanwhile, listening to his wife's Christmas memories recalled one of his own Depression year presents, a sled.

"I was excited," he said. "I could go sliding, and sliding fast, right away. My brother got one the next year, and then we could slide together."

Again looking across the table and smiling at his wife, he agrees the couple's 45 years of farming as well as his time for a period working as a trucker at the former Sioux City Stockyards have meant a good life.

He added that for him, it was a realization early-on of what he wanted to do.

"I've always loved farming," he said. "When I was just a little kid I'd tell my dad I wanted to be a farmer, too. Picking corn by hand back then I also remember saying I still wanted to be a farmer, but to never pick corn again by hand. And, I never did because later we got a tractor, with a single-row picker."

Both Pridies say they've "been grateful" of the opportunity to have raised their family, sons, Rick, former clerk supervisor, Woodbury County Clerk of Court's Office; and Ron, formerly with Wells Blue Bunny, who died in 2011, on the farm.

Preparing to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary in January, Charles and Betty said they're equally grateful for all that has been given them.

Included they said have been the blessing that come with the closeness of family and the friendships evolving out of the traditional farm neighborliness.

Betty like her husband was quick to express gratitude for the "gifts" in the couple's lives, these in even their early growing-up Depression times.

Among the recollections of that time she added is that of her father "burning 10 cent corn, cheaper than coal" in order to keep the family warm.

"We also never went found ourselves going hungry what with what we had from the farm to eat," she said. "We appreciated what we had. Every little thing was important to us." Charles nodded his agreement having grown up in a similar household.

Betty considering the approach of Christmas 2012 expressed her special hope for the coming holiday celebration. "Our holidays have become too commercial," she said. "What everybody wants is not always necessary. We're forgetting the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. May we all see it in this way."