York County farm families in the 1920s faced Nebraska's harsh
winter weather without a furnace or an indoor bathroom. Winter
meant short hours of daylight, long winter nights, and illnesses
for people and animals. Despite the weather, most children walked
or rode horseback to school, where a wood burning stove heated
the schoolroom. Cold and snow were not excuses to stay home
from school. In the winter chores were more difficult. Animals
had to be fed and watered every day, even when the snow was
deep and water froze in the troughs. In the evening, families
used kerosene lamps and a lucky few gathered around a battery-powered radio
to listen to comedy programs. Sometimes they would get together with neighbors
to share a meal and enjoy some music or games. Family gatherings
at Thanksgiving and Christmas were welcome breaks before the
coldest winter months of January and February.
|Extreme cold weather has
frozen this mill's waterwheel in place.
When children became ill, the doctor was often far away.
People often died from the flu, pneumonia, diphtheria, or
someone had pneumonia or a cold, you put a poultice on
them. It would be like a mustard plaster or something
that would radiate heat… on their chest or steam
in their head… No antibiotics…a lot of people
died. My brother had diphtheria when he was a tiny child…
I remember the high fevers. And we just would keep wringing
out cloths and putting cook cloths on him to try to bring
his fever down …A lot of towns had their own doctors…who would...come out to the places…for childbirth or for
broken legs, but they just didn't have the
technology or the medicines." -- Norma
Ehlers (Quicktime required)
Written by Claudia Reinhardt.