Being the oldest
grandchild, I had a unique opportunity to spend time with my
grandparents. My earliest memories date back to about 1949 when
I was four years old. Since Grandpa died in 1956, my
recollection is a brief seven year snapshot of his life.
However, I am one of a dwindling number still alive who actually
knew him. My memories will be supplemented by a few others who
knew John Eustice longer than I did.
The Eustice farm had
been in the family since the early 1900s and was a "typical"
family farm of that period. There was a dairy herd of about 30
milking cows which were mostly Holsteins and had been "bred up"
from a herd of Shorthorn cattle. Some of the cows were "Blue
Roans" which were the result of the crossbreeding of
Holstein and Shorthorn. Milking was done by machine and the milk
was separated into cream which was placed in cans (large drums)
and sold to local cooperative creameries. The skim milk was fed
to calves or the pigs. Today, skim or low fat milk is highly
desirable but in those days cream was sold at a premium and made
into sweet cream butter. For many years, Minnesota ranked first
in the US in butter production.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, it was
Grandpa’s turn to take the cream to the creamery; Wednesday to
Waseca and Saturday to Janesville. Each cream can had JWE etched
on it which helped keep the cans separate from cans of cream
produced by the neighbors. I was fortunate to stay at my
grandparent’s home rather frequently and always looked forward
to the trip to town with Grandpa. My cousin Ed Eustice went
along as well whenever he could. We were quite the trio!
In those days, the cans were lowered into a cistern at the base
of the well to keep the cream at a constant temperature. The
cans were lowered and raised using a pulley. Every farm had a
windmill which was used to pump water and each windmill had a
cistern. We made stops at neighboring farms owned by Reuben
Born, Clarence Born and Heinz Mittlestaedt. The stop at Reuben
Born’s farm was always interesting because Reuben had great
stories to tell and a menagerie of exotic chickens to show us.
We headed directly to town to make sure that the cream did not
spoil. Whether we were going to Waseca or Janesville, the
creamery was always our first stop. The cans were unloaded and
placed on a conveyor made of metal rollers. The cream was dumped
into a vat and carefully weighed to give each farmer proper
credit. The farmers were paid by the creamery twice a month.
Grandpa Eustice loved ice cream and each creamery had a good
assortment of flavors to choose from. We were always treated to
an ice cream cone. When asked which flavor I wanted, my initial
response was, "Any kind." The reply from the person behind the
counter was always the same; "We don’t have that kind." I liked
ice cream just as much as my grandfather and didn’t care which
flavor it was. My attitude was, let’s not worry about details,
just give me the cone. Eventually, I decided maple nut was my
Our next stop was the
bakery where we’d stock up on bakery goods. We’d get chocolate
chip cookies, carmel coated long johns and fresh bread. In
Waseca, our favorite bakery was Rindelaub’s located on State
Street. The next stop was the Red Owl store which was on the
same street. Among other things, we’d buy bananas, grapefruit
and Lipton tea for Grandma. Grandpa was generous and always
found an extra quarter in his pocket for the grandkids. I used
my quarter to go to the Ben Franklin store to buy baseball cards
packaged with bubble gum produced by the Topps Company. I still
have the baseball cards but the bubble gum is long gone.
Sometimes I’d buy a kit to make a balsa glider which would last
about ten minutes after we got home. Our last stop in Waseca was
the Byron Farm Store where we’d load a few bags of mineral for
the livestock or mash for the laying hens into the back of the
Sometimes the trip home resulted in
more excitement in the form of hitch hikers. Since the seat of
the truck was full of grandkids and groceries, hitch hikers
would have to ride in the back with bags of feed and empty cream
cans. Grandpa would sometimes "tease" the would be passenger by
stopping the truck and then driving away about the time the
person was ready to board. He picked up hikers no matter how
questionable they appeared to be. Usually he knew them, but
sometimes he didn’t.
In Janesville, after a stop at the creamery which included an
ice cream cone, we would usually visit Grandpa’s sister Mary
Delaney. Aunt Mary as she was known to us, worked as the
operator at the local telephone office. She was what was known
as "Central" in those days and knew everything that was going on
in town because she was responsible for receiving and
transferring all the calls. After enjoying Aunt Mary’s sugar
cookies and catching up on the news, we’d go to Finley’s grocery
store and usually to the Janesville Bake Shop. Sometimes on
Saturdays, we’d make a final stop at St. Anne’s Catholic Church
and go to confession. Grandpa and Grandma were devout Catholics
and made sure their grand children knew their prayers and stayed
holy. Weekly attendance at Sunday Mass in Janesville was a
foregone conclusion. Grandpa and Grandma Eustice both were quick
to reprimand us if our boyhood conversations strayed and became
"off-color" in any way.
Besides the dairy herd, John W. Eustice raised hogs, had a flock
of sheep and a small flock of laying hens. I especially liked
the sheep. Grandpa gave me a ewe lamb with a spotted face. I
named her "Spotty Face" and she became the foundation of my own
sheep flock which was upgraded using purebred Suffolk rams. I
wasn’t too fond of the chickens because of the fowl odor and
ammonia in the chicken house. I did help Grandpa candle eggs in
the root cellar of the family home. The eggs were held up to a
light or candle to see if there were blood spots or double
yolks. If any "abnormalities" were found, these eggs were kept
for our breakfast the next morning. The eggs were placed in
flats and packed into large cardboard crates holding 36 dozen.
These crates would be taken to Waseca on a weekly basis along
with the cream and sold at a business called Miller Produce.
During the early 1950s, a new hog barn
was built on the south edge of the building site. While on a
small scale compared to today’s large hog farms, this was a
farrow to finish operation. Sows were bred, baby pigs born and
finished on the farm. The pigs were fed swill which was a
slightly fermented mixture of ground oats, water and skim milk.
My job was helping Grandpa neuter the baby male pigs. I got to
hold the pigs while Grandpa used the knife.
Grandpa Eustace loved John Deere tractors, Pontiac cars and GMC
trucks. He took good care of his machinery and kept it neat and
in good working order.
During the early 1950s, a new house was built
immediately adjacent to the old house on the farm. Two
generations of Eustices had been raised in that home which was
built in the 1880s. I was there when the foundation for the new
house was laid and the first uprights were raised. The new house
was of typical 1950s construction but did have fancy blue
"gingerbread" trim on the gable which I especially admired.
Keith and Kelly Eustace live in the house today.
The old house was eventually torn down because it was built
too close to the new house and considered a fire threat. I felt
sad when the old house was torn down because of the pleasant
John W. Eustice was a humble, mild mannered, quiet, unassuming
gentleman who had a great sense of humor. He was liked and
respected by everyone who knew him; he had no enemies. His
integrity was never questioned, his friendship greatly valued
and cherished. He did not smoke or chew tobacco and enjoyed a
beer but always in moderation. He did chew Wrigley’s Doublemint
chewing gum. His everyday attire was a pair of striped Oshkosh
B’Gosh bib overalls and a light blue chambray work shirt. On
Sunday morning for church, he dressed up in a gray suit, white
shirt and tie. He always wore suspenders. John Eustice was an
excellent father and was extremely kind and generous to his
grandchildren. His presence was felt wherever he went, and his
opinion sought after and highly valued. I can honestly say that
Grandpa had no enemies; only friends.
John W. Eustice always had time for fun and
relaxation. His hobbies included fishing and card games called
euchre, pfeffer and pinochle. John Eustice almost always had a
deck of cards clevely stowed away in the pocket of his bib
overalls or the vest pocket of his Sunday suit. In those days,
the neighbors got together on Friday or Saturday nights for
serious card playing. Sometimes they would play well into the
late hours of the night. There was always a light meal served at
the end of the evening, bologna sandwiches, cookies, pie and ice
John Eustice loved to attend baseball. He
went to Waseca Braves baseball team home game and would
sometimes go as far as Owatonna and even Austin to watch his
beloved Braves play ball.
He fished as often as he could. Whenever he heard the
bullheads were biting at Lake Elysian or in Morristown, he
grabbed his cane pole and bobbers and headed to the lake. Never
mind that the sun was shining and there was hay to put up. As he
often said , "I don’t know how long I’ll be on this earth and we
need to enjoy each day."