Phyllis Putnam and Margaret Putnam Brennen

Recorded July 19, 2006 Archived July 19, 2006 01:19:11 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mbx001633


Woman tells her daughter what it was like growing up on a farm.

Subject Log / Time Code

Father sent Margaret out to work in the hayfields when she was 7--she drove the horses
Father was sweet--worst thing he’d say was “I wish you hadn’t done that”


  • Phyllis Putnam
  • Margaret Putnam Brennen

Recording Location

MobileBooth East


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00:04 My name is Margaret Putnam Brennan. I'm 37 years old today is July 19th, 2006 in Watertown, New York in front of flower Memorial Library.

00:17 I'm here today with my mother and my four-month-old son William Putnam Brandon.

00:25 I'm 72 years old today is the 19th of July 2006. We are in Watertown New York my daughter born in Cape, Vincent, New York.

00:51 Andre born in hospital, apparently, my mother was in labor for 4 days before I was born on the story is that my grandmother's birthday was on December 2nd for days before I was born. My mother had made her a birthday cake and then my mother went into labor so my grandmother brought the birthday cake back my parents to have my mother was in labor know I was born at home and not the doctor at the actual birth. I don't really know that my parents were tenant Farmers for the first for the first two Farms that they had and this was the second of the two Farm they were paying now half the milk caps went to the actual owner of the farm.

01:51 Farmers and apparently the owner of the farm, but apparently the cow is it was when they move their belong to the owner, but any cows were born while they were farming the farm the long to the tenant farmer, so they got a few of their own cow that way.

02:31 And then you told me before that you went to a one-room schoolhouse. I did I did and people what grade fourth grade there was no kindergarten and it happened at the schoolhouse was on our farm. Was a very short block for us. But for the kids it would have been made as much as two miles away is either walk or in some cases a parent or parents would drive them to school. The the farmers had to take your milk to the milk station and they would at the same time take their children to school and then drop the children off at school and go on take your milk to the milk station are teachers lived in the town of Cape Vincent and in the village of queso.

03:31 Cuz I don't know much about how that would work when one through eight and as I recall or 13 kids in the in the rule in this grade 1 through 8, and we would have our lesson like 10 or 15 minutes to do the homework. And then she would call up the next class. Sometimes it's too and that she would teach them and then send them back and the the seats would hold two kids.

04:28 Give a double and usually if I recall there was an older child in the seat with you. So you would be working on your work and ask the older one to help you out. How did this go? So there was a lot of this working back and forth between the kids at the front of the room a third grader might be listening in the morning at the same time. So there's kind of a

05:19 Men parents male parent the room and get the fire going and for most of the morning until the 15 20 foot ceilings.

06:00 A long time for it to heat up until later in the afternoon songs and things because it was too hard for us after doing a work. So we would recite the alphabet or whatever we can do without actually using pencil and paper because it was so cold you standing out there.

06:36 The school has been talking about is still standing.

06:48 I think I was three years old I think and so it would have been and probably 37 1937 interesting right now. If you're going to buy a house or property you go to the bank and arrange for a loan at the bank and they borrow $4,000 from the neighbor know how the neighbor had $4,000 in the middle of the depression. I don't know if they were saving up their back ribs or something, but he did he loaned it to my father and my parents.

07:48 Set my father got for a milk check. That was $6 a month. How he paid off the mortgage? I don't know but he did pay for the farm in 7 years at that rate, which I think it's fantastic. You guys weren't buying a lot from the store. How is the family being sad day instead of saying I'm going to go shopping and would say I'm going to go trading and what they did was AIDS. We had a lot of Hands-On job. My father would take the eggs to the store and trade.

08:30 For the food, my mother didn't go shopping and it would haggle over the price that he was getting for the eggs and the price you're paying for the food and it was a man's job to do that. They have to have coffee flour sugar. We had our own pig and a cow wait, we split the cow probably the grandparents.

09:14 He said that you had specifically probably well. I don't know if later on milk was they had to take the milk house they called it and in the mail house they had station can through called station can be caused the milk man will come along and take those cans and ice.

10:14 Ice House in Cape Vincent and once a week or twice a week, whatever it was he would go and get ice from the Ice House in Cape Vincent and put it in my van at the store the milk and the bat and this is ice ahead and cut from the st. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario during the winter time when interview and it was thank you.

11:14 It was sold.

11:18 And originally

11:21 My father did have a tractor but it was a big lug Wheels metal wheels on the tractor and the hired man who must have come very very cheap because he was sick. He was an alcoholic and he would get paid my father pay him on Saturday night and he would walk to Cape Vincent which is about two miles and get drunk and somehow get home and he he would go through a bottle of milk of magnesia my sister and I would love those blue bottles of milk of magnesia bottles. Please go out and collect them because I don't know how old man would have been and if I remember my father taking him home, we all went home.

12:21 My father convince my mother that I would go in Hayfield. I was 7 and Not only was it too big but it had a had a birthday into flames. It must have had a gas leak or something from play through your guilt. He feels and would burst into flames. What was dangerous to horses.

12:48 And since it alright drive while I pulled on the right-hand ring in the horses. What's the right? He's just figured out how to hold the reins. And so I drove them on the hay wagon for that summer when I was 7 years old for cutting. Hay really need somebody to handle the horses always a k you say now it away. Yeah. I'm putting it in the right and then it would have to go back up to the barn.

13:31 And the horses had to be used to pull the hay up into the two and the Hayfork came down with a two-prong fork. You have to bring it down and grind it into the hay and then there was a handle that you pull that brought up. Sometimes it would walk the hay in place and then you drive the horses and off that's what it was called driving off on the on the Hazel and was in a way to the top of the barn and it was hit a lock and slide across the top of the barn to the place where you wanted it to drop and then there was a triple pulled hard on the trip rope and the Haywood drop into the mall.

14:31 But all the dangerous as well as class ring on and he jumped off a load of hay and caught his ring on something and I just pulled the finger off and my brother he was out working by himself. Actually with the power take-off, you hook your Machinery up to the Tractor and the Machine like that and he had an old dream of rotten magazine.

15:30 So he was standing there in his underwear isn't a story. You told me when I was younger. Maybe I'm just remembering a cigarette behind him onto a loan my parents the money. He was next door neighbor his own my parents for money to buy the farm while later on.

16:03 He probably was about 70 years old. He was older and he was a smoker man smoker and he was bringing in a load of hay for the horses and he was smoking and he flew away but it didn't go away right behind you into the boat and the horses were fighting when they got pregnant. They wanted to go home home would have been in the barn and he didn't want them to go in the barn because he stayed on the load of hay trying to control the horses so that they wouldn't go into the barn.

17:02 He lived for like 4 days. They didn't I don't understand that. They didn't take you for a four days before he died. The horses. I think another neighbor saw what was happening and ran into the field and grab the horses. But by that time he'd he was burned rice because that was

17:42 The livelihood right? And what would have probably not during the Depression that would have been pretty tough. But earlier on the farmers you can get a tenant Farm or Farm while you went and looked in the village and there were farmers. There's one man. I'm thinking out who owned a number of farms and he never ever worked the farm and is likely just collected.

18:34 Your house, you know, I'm thinking now. I have a baby of my own and and it's so much work and just listen to talk about the farm and it just seems like an insane amount of work to to do like the laundry friend since now because it was so hard Monday morning that was sacred. He would roll out her washing machine wringer washing machine. And first of all, we had bring down our seats.

19:20 The first went in the wrist cub and pick them up and check them over to be sure that they were really only one through the ringer by the time she had to get it out early in the morning because it would take all day for the clothes to dry. If it was in the winter. It was outside in the winter and we were

20:20 Young I'd say probably 3 years old my sister and I 3 or 4 years old. My mother would go out and help with the milking and there was light out by the barn that we can turn on from the house. So if we had any problems we would turn on the light and she come right away. But otherwise we were laughing to wash the dishes.

21:19 I can remember working in the Hayfield when my brother was just a baby. She put him in the back seat of the car and drive the car out and Green Oaks at noon. We have potatoes were probably hash brown potatoes and the meat might have been ground up beef or something like that. We never had I never had pizza.

22:19 Or tacos or anything like that was always meat and potatoes and beef we can have a deep freeze. How did your food supply change during World War? I know you had coupons.

22:42 Living in a fire. Maybe I didn't impact use.

22:49 The gas was hard to come by. Nobody was traveling because you had to have off a racing coupon for gas. But we we had it for the farm. You're allowed to the farm and sugar was hard to come by tonight at 8 and preserving.

23:17 Honda other than that

23:21 I don't think there was much impact because we had we had five Gardens. We have one big Garden potato a really important staple staple. It was we had potatoes and then we have four other Gardens and the kind of soil. What was in the garden.

23:50 In the evening after all the other work was done. We all had to go out and work in the gardens. We had to Hole or my sister died. One of our favorite things were cut the tomato worms into around with scissors better than whole whole and lead your mom with candy sings up or throw them in The Root Cellar for the winter time. It was carefully he was very careful that were filled.

24:48 That was your life. There was no there was no safety net. There was no social security in the sing that their bugbear was the County Farm if I had to go to the County Farm, which was where North Country library system is armed and the Black River Farm and the men but if you couldn't if you didn't have enough money to retire is going to take care of yourself. That's what you had to do.

25:44 Yeah, I was just thinking your mom so much food your brother Uncle Bill who lives in the house that you grew up in send it down in the cellar still Arkansas preserve indoor plumbing some of our relatives to go to visit.

26:31 I don't know if my parents put it in the house or if it was there when it came to be your parents work 7 days a week. They didn't take Sunday off. Well, they wouldn't do anything that they didn't have to do nail King important and then was quite from 41 42 from there on till then once we could afford at my father insisted we go out to dinner on Sunday.

27:31 Movies that night

27:45 Add that only a weekend night might have been only Saturday and Sunday nights Frank family. And so they did they need it.

28:26 Oh, I know one time my father had hey cut, and he thought he had to get it in because it was going to rain or something and it was a Sunday.

28:40 He went out and got the hay on the wagon was bringing the wagon back to the barn and he hit a bump or something and he had to put it and put the because it was you know.

29:11 Not really sure how far he got into he had to be there and obviously the summer but for plowing in the fall in for planting in the spring and there was nothing to do on the farm he would go to school so I don't think I've been doing for fun right there when they left.

30:11 I'm or whatever if my list of numbers add up, but he wouldn't you you were the only one my mother had an uncle.

30:50 Who apparently was well off, but he had no children and I don't know how I don't know if my mother was the only one to receive an inheritance or if there were several people that I don't know how much it was but this was before she was married now imagine the hard times.

31:45 Tempting until then you stayed on the farm and help your brother run the farm when your mom died.

32:06 When your father dies it wasn't worth enough money to see her through when my brother was 13 years old. He went to school he would get up to the mail think my mother would take him to school. The school was very understanding. He never had a first. Class B homework.

32:50 He worked until 2005 probably because he knew he had to

33:17 Had to listen in class and get out of class what he could because he couldn't do homework cuz it sounds like an incredibly hard-working family all around and never.

33:29 Never think twice about the fact that he had to work so hard but it's just the way things were and then you were a teacher and you were working on the farm in the evening.

34:05 Is there anything else we should know about life on the farm?

34:13 I say so we've got a list of questions here and you wrote that cows dried up in the station before the milk was for the good milk the milk. If it was not then you sent your mail to Sonos Factory and the milk factory was asked for the cheese factory. I never take any kind of milk to the cheese factory, but because it was so hard to move the milk in the winter. They usually would dry up the cows in the winter and then

35:13 Advantage of other powers Woods in the spring has a little calves when the weather was good and by the next winter pretty well on their way, so the family and my parents in the winter would pick a room in the house and do it over. I just wanted to quickly squeezin Just for future Generations. Could you describe what your parents or like like personality-wise?

35:58 I mean obviously hard-working go to that thing very very kind. He's very sweet very gentle the artwork in Hayfield with him all the time. And that first year when I was 7 years old and driving the horses. I broke the wagon tongue three times one time was right just before a storm was coming in and hit we were in a hurry to get the heian and I broke the wagon tongue and he never said anything that would break your heart. If you say I wish you hadn't done that. I wish I was the king and I told her father doted on her that she and her brothers so she was kind of spoiled but she was

36:58 Do you like being outdoors and I think he likes working on the farm, but she's the one that

37:07 Enforce the rules and regulations times. It was too hard for her. I think sometimes you're all that hard work. If something went wrong on the one hand on the other hand and then going to be as bad as some of the other things.

37:56 And you said that you've told me before that you're her mother lived with you and she was dying. Yeah, and that your mom had two on top of everything else tattoos get to care for her own mother as her mother was dying and senile and had she was really a mean person her because he was because of the government listen to try to give her a glass of water and she throw it at you and she was very very hard to deal with wrap it up.

38:56 And a wonderful mother

38:59 Thank you. Make sure that

39:25 Good childhood good life again.

39:29 My grandchildren