Eustace Families Association

Eustace Families Post
November 2010

Memories of John W. Eustice, Waseca County, Minnesota; By Ronald F. Eustice

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 favorite flavor.

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 pickup truck.

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 memories.

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 cream.

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."

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