Elaine Manry was born on a farm in Iowa in the August of 1926. She was one of eight children, stuck right in the middle of the family. This proved to be both a blessing and a curse while working around the house.
“When it was bath time, Mother would fill up a tub with water outside. We would have to each take turns, washing in the same water as we went. I just was glad I was not one of the younger three children when it was time for this.”
Once a month, Manry’s mother would line up each of the children, and cut their hair all the same length. It must have been hard to tell the siblings apart. At her school, which was an eight mile walk there and back from the farm, the other children would make fun of Manry simply because her and her siblings often looked so much alike and wore the same clothes.
“Most of my clothes were handed down to me from my older siblings,” Manry remembered. “Sometimes if we were lucky, Mother would fashion a dress or two for us out of a feed sack. They were the prettiest thing we owned.”
Not only were dresses a special elegance, but so were shoes. Manry only had one pair of shoes; she fondly remembered how on one Easter she got a new pair. At the time, it was the best present ever.
“Mother would clean our laundry with a scrubbing board. It was a big innovation when we got a roller. One time, I got curious and stuck my hand through the roller. Boy, did I regret that! Blood got all in the laundry from my hand, and I still have the scars.”
For special holidays like Christmas, Manry retold how she and her siblings would receive presents. The children would hang their dirty socks up in the windows to dry, and their mother would fill them up with as much candy could be split for each of them. Imagine eating candy out of a dirty sock for Christmas!
Without electricity on the farm, the family made great use out of gas oil lamps. But because of how the fumes would make the glass around the lamp dirty, the children were to clean out the lamps every night before they went to bed. If they did not, it was hard to see anything, none the less go up the stairs in the house.
The four of Manry’s siblings and herself would sleep in the same room, all on one mattress. It make it awkward if you did not get along with your sibling.
The family soon traveled cross country to Michigan, where Manry met her husband and traveled more before finally coming back to Van Buren for her later years.
“It amazes me how kids these days rely on technology to entertain themselves,” Manry stated. “We played with homemade dolls and each other, never with anything special.” Though technology might be seen as a crutch as it is used today, it is still nice to think back on the times where bread was ten cents a loaf.
(Editor's Note - Mrs. Manry was a resident of Van Buren.)