Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Father sold ‘clean milk, fresh from my own cows’

Imagine our quiet countryside when farmers for miles around heard the weather forecast from the shoe factory’s signals on the 10 o’clock morning whistle! One long and two shorts - "fair and warmer"; two longs - "rain or snow and colder;" etc. It was the big Hamilton Brown Shoe Co.’s factory whistle. The manufacturing of airplane propellers there came years later.

Rural Missouri was a quiet world of poultry, sheep, mules, horses, cows, hogs, mocking birds and bullfrogs. Farm people were excitedly talking about the possibility of having electricity on our farms. Mom and Dad needed electricity for a number of chores in and around their small "cow-to-customer" dairy enterprise. Milk delivery to homes four miles away in Columbia was motorized when they bought a new 1917 Ford truck!

Eighty years ago, when Boone County Hospital was under construction, Elinor Keeley, head nurse and general manager, visited several home dairies selling milk in Columbia. She chose Dad’s. His motto was: "O.D. Meyers Dairy, Clean Milk, Fresh From My Own Cows."

At that time, there were no regulations, standards or guidelines to follow in producing milk for sale - except personal integrity. The motto said it all.

His first delivery to Boone Hospital was when it opened in 1924. The last was during World War II when he went out of business. Elinor Keeley was welcome to visit the dairy without calling, and she did occasionally.

A week ago, I wrote about President Franklin Roosevelt’s plan to help farmers form cooperatives and borrow money to bring electricity to rural America.

My father, O.D. Meyers, and Eva Hinshaw set out in different directions to sign up farm families; registration was less than $5! Many families were skeptical. Dad paid the fee for some, just to be able to extend the lines to the more distant farms.

A cooperative was formed, money was borrowed and poles were on the ground waiting for holes by early 1937. Still, many farmers said: "... can’t afford it ... afraid of electricity ... just bought my wife a new ice box ... Grandpa didn’t have electric so we won’t have it ... don’t want our trees disturbed by those electric wires ... get it started and we might sign on later."

Local merchants and Boone Electric Co-Op countered such rejection by holding a series of meetings to answer questions and demonstrate the use of various appliances. The co-op and merchants gave away prizes at those meetings: electric irons, waffle irons, radios, food mixers - even large items such as an electric stove and a washing machine! The prizes produced results! With new appliances in several homes in the community, the demand for similar products took people shopping at the donors’ stores.

Gradually, after small town gatherings and county fairs, interest in farm equipment built up: Water pumps, milking machines, water tank heaters and other farm equipment attracted the men. Dad was eager to replace our carbide lighting with electrical wires and new fixtures in three buildings: home, milk house and barn.

He worked all day and night when he lined the refrigeration room with slabs of cork 4 inches thick. Demonstrations at community fairs taught men how to use milking machines, electric well pumps and other labor-saving devices.

The extraordinary enthusiasm and time given by 12 special farmers is recognized on a bronze plaque at the Boone Electric building in Columbia.

We are proud that O.D. Meyers and Eva Hinshaw are two of the 12 people honored on that plaque.


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