Events that shaped us 

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Milan Surplus
I-280 Exit 15
Milan, IL 61264

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Inc.
614 Main St
Davenport, 52803

Ward Chiropractic
1802 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Cannon Precision Manufacturing
PO Box 289
4th and Washington St
Keithsburg, IL 61442

Associated Environmental Management Services Inc
PO Box 586
1701 13 St
Viola, IL 61486

Edward Jones
1632 5th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265

Downtown Davenport Association
102 S. Harrison St.
Davenport, IA 52801

Donald J. McNeil, D.D.S.
1030 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265

Valley Dental Center
Dr. Margarida R. Laub
Route 6, Coal Valley, IL

Sylvan Learning Center
1035 Lincoln Road
Bettendorf, IA

Marycrest International University
1607 W 12 St
Davenport, IA 52804

St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust
Davenport, IA 52804

Palmer College of Chiropractic
1000 Brady St
Davenport, IA 52803

Augustana College
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

H & R Block
1715 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

E & J
200 24 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

American Institute of Commerce
1801 E Kimberly Rd
Davenport, IA 52807

War brought long hours to area farmers

By Lisa Hammer, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

American servicemen in World War II were better fed than any fighting men to that point in history.

According to the Illinois State Archives, the average production of feed corn in the state rose from 331 million bushels to an average 405 million bushels during the years 1942 to 1945, an increase of 22 percent. During the same time, the farm labor force fell 23 percent from 978,907 in 1940 to 759,429 in 1945.

Lois Westlund of Geneseo recalls her father, then in his 60s, filling out a government form to determine whether or not her brother could be spared from the farm and drafted into service. She was declared two-thirds of a farm worker and outfitted with the appropriate cotton overalls since women did not then wear pants. Her brother left for the service.

``We were known as farmerettes,'' she said.

Her future husband was working as a hired hand. Both remember long hours of farm labor, sunrise to sunset.

Hybrid varieties helped increase crop yields in wartime but they were in use even before the war.

Mr. Westlund said he was 16 in 1936 when he planted his first hybrids. It was a drought year and poor as the crop was, the hybrid corn yielded 15 to 20 bushels more than open-pollinated varieties.

Mr. Westlund remembers his surprise at how fast the harvest wagon filled one year when yields boomed. ``I kept going around and around, and each time around it was full,'' he said.

Mrs. Westlund remembers her father taking his first soil samples to an office in Cambridge during the war to see if the soil needed lime. ``If you had a problem, they would even come out to your farm and vaccinate your pigs. They were your veterinary,'' she said.

Most farmers still didn't use insecticides. Mr. Westlund said farmers hoed by hand and used cultivators and were dependent on their neighbors doing the same to keep weeds from going to seed and spreading.

"We never thought we were that much abused," added Mr. Westlund. "We put in long hours and we thought there was a good reason for it."

"It was our duty to support our country through agriculture, feeding people. Doing at home the way our people were across the water, serving," said Mrs. Westlund.

Natural disasters were compounded by the war.

Maurice and Helen Stenzel headed north from their home in Cambridge on July 7, 1942, to visit their farm 12 miles away. The Stenzels discovered the tornado had hit their farm and flattened two barns, a silo and a corn crib and ``plowed'' a furrow three feet deep through a field.

The disaster was compounded when the men they hired to clean it up burned the lumber without letting them use good pieces to rebuild.

``Those years you couldn't buy or steal lumber,'' said Mr. Stenzel.

Mrs. Stenzel remembers going to work along with the other farm wives. ``I drove tractors just like my neighbor-ladies did. We went to the ends of their fields and we waved,'' she said as she laughed.

Pete Raschke of Geneseo was 11 when the war began.

``Most of the men were gone,'' he said. ``It was just boys and old men who threshed and made hay.''

He said he never felt particularly patriotic by helping on the farm. "Essentially we did what we'd done before," he said.

Mr. Raschke said he remembered farmers couldn't buy any machinery during much of the war, although things loosened up a bit the final year. Ceiling prices were set on used equipment sold when farmers sold out or retired.

Overall, farmers received good prices for their products during the war for the first time since before the Depression, although the government did set maximum prices they could get. Mr. Raschke remembers a ceiling price for pork of 14 and 3/4 cents a pound compared to nine cents today. "All higher than it is now," he noted.

Albert Francque began farming on his own in 1943 with an old Case tractor which he ran until dark every night because it didn't have headlights.

Before hybrids, Mr. Francque said before hybrids, the farmer's own corn stalks would often fall over on the ground and be wasted.

``We just couldn't believe it when we started raising that hybrid corn,'' he said. ``You could look down the road and not a stalk down.''

Laura Thomas said her husband, Clint, bought the one-millionth International Harvester "M" series tractor. They saved the pictures and news clippings from the occasion.

She remembers working out in the fields herself during World War II with her first husband.

``Oh, yes, you had to get out and work like a man,'' she said. ``The women had to get out and take the place of the men and the older women had to take care of the kids. You couldn't hire anybody. And you were up at 4 o'clock in the morning, oh mercy. And when you quit it was well after dusk, I can tell you that.''

Her farm didn't have electricity or running water until after the war. To keep up with war news, they listened to a radio using a car battery. ``And you played that radio sparingly,'' she said.

James Banse worked on his father's farm through the war. With all regular ag machinery plants converted to wartime production, they bought a General Implement or ``G.I.'' disc. Mr. Banse said the first time he used it, the bolts nearly fell off. He couldn't keep them tight.

``It was a lemon but they were all lemons,'' he said. ``There wasn't a guy that got one that didn't swear at it.''

Mr. Banse said farmers used their equipment until it was so covered with baling wire it could hardly be found. "After the war, everybody pretty much needed a full set of equipment," he said.

Mr. Banse said material goods continued to be hard to come by for at least another six months, but everyone's top priority was to get the American troops everything they needed and to get them home.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.