Rockford woman remembers life on the farm


One of Gladys Weasner’s earliest memories was sitting on the footboard of a horse and buggy while her mother drove her and her siblings into town.

“When it was blackberry time, we’d all go picking berries and keep them in fruit jars,” she said. “In the wintertime, we’d make blackberry cobbler out of them.”

The strawberries brought two cents a quart back then, and they picked all morning, and sometimes, they ate dinner there and then picked some more in the afternoon when they were just kids.

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At age 104, the Rockford woman has many memories from over the years. Some good and some not so good, but she can still remember things.

School days

“Back then, we milked the cows early and then walked to school a mile and three-fourths, even when it was cold,” she said. “When I was older, my brother and I were milking cows, and I guess the cow kicked me and stepped on me, and so my brother pulled me outside the stable.”

Eventually, there was a school hack, which was a horse-drawn carriage, to take the children to school. The school she attended was located in Jennings County.

“She ultimately graduated from Redding-Township School Number Six,” said Gladys’ youngest son, Dean Weasner, of Greenwood. “So I believe the school that Mom was referring to must have been in Redding Township, where she attended school through eighth grade.”

Gladys said later on, they drove a horse and buggy, and they had a livery stable at the school where they kept the horses. When school was over, they harnessed them up and went home because they didn’t have buses yet.

“One teacher taught the whole school at Walnut Grove back then,” Gladys said. “It was a two-room schoolhouse with younger kids on one side and the older kids on the other.”

Life on the farm

“I worked with my dad outside mostly, and I was more or less a tomboy growing up,” Gladys said. “I liked to be outside, and my sister, Hazel, was older, and she helped Mom in the house, but the boys didn’t do much.”

Gladys’ middle son, Dave Weasner of Seymour, said both of his mom’s brothers were professional painters and hard workers at their paid jobs but not so much on the farm.

“When I was younger, me and Mom worked on the farm a lot together,” Dave said. “We had a truck farm and grew a lot of produce, and one year, we raised five tons of onions.”

They also grew tomatoes and sweet corn, and everything was pretty much done by hand because they didn’t have tilling equipment for the gardens, Dave said.

“Mom was a gardener, and she had a big garden until she was near 100, and she spaded it up by hand and kept all the weeds off of it,” Dave said. “I always offered to help till it up, but she wouldn’t let me.”

Dean said they were farm people, and back then, how things worked was you would raise your potatoes and produce, and you canned and put everything up and would raise a pig or a hog and butcher it.

“If you had any extra, you’d take it into town to trade at the grocery store,” Dean said. “The families were pretty well self-sufficient.”

Gladys said her mother made all of their clothes, and her father put new soles on their shoes when they would get worn out.

“He’d soak the leather in warm water to make it soft so he could get a nail in it,” Gladys said. “We usually got just one pair of shoes, and he would resole them with a tack and hammer.”

Gladys said her and three of her sisters slept in the same room, and they only had two or three dresses.

“Sometimes, we’d wear the same dress to school for two or three days, and to wash our clothes, we had to use a washboard and wrung it out by hand,” Gladys said.

Gladys and her sister, Huldah, both learned to sew and did it well. Huldah even made clothes for Elvis Presley, Dave said.

Miscellaneous memories

“Potatoes was our main meal back then,” Gladys said. “We had a lot of mashed potatoes and fried potatoes because that’s what we grew. I made cornbread and put it in a big skillet, and you never had cornbread like that. It was really delicious.”

Gladys said she remembers when peanut butter used to be sold in little cartons, and the margarine was white and you had a packet that you’d put in the margarine to mix it up and make it yellow.

“Things were different back in those days. It was about 15 cents to go to the movies,” Gladys said. “Also, me and my sister had a car together and paid $300 for it — $150 each — and she got mad and I had to sell my part out, and after that, she drove the car.”

Gladys also remembers that back then, doctors didn’t come to the house. She said they had to use their own goose grease and home remedies, like a poultice, in the wintertime.

“We used corn shucks for our mattress. Every time they shucked corn, Dad would put new ones in our mattress,” Gladys said. “It was real high at first, then later on, it got mashed down and got flatter.”

Gladys remembered when the first man walked on the moon and thought it was amazing, and her first recollection of politics is when Warren G. Harding was president.

Courting back in the day

How did Gladys meet her future husband, Clyde Weasner? She said he was a friend of her brother, Willard.

“They’d go hunting and things like that together,” Gladys said. “He would come out and visit with us, and later on, I went with him.”

When it came to courting, Gladys said the horse knew the way home, and you could just fasten the lines around the the dashboard, and kids did the courting on the way home.

“She got in trouble when one of her boyfriends got her home late, and her dad threw a fit,” Dave said.

“They would have pie suppers back then and auction off the pies, and then you’d go off with that person who bought your pie,” Gladys said. “Me and the boy skated all afternoon, and when I got home, Mom and Dad came out there, and they were mad because I was late.”

Gladys said the person who took her and her date to go skating just dropped them off and never came back to pick them up.

“We didn’t have a way home, so when we finally showed up, my dad gave me a lickin’ and I was so stiff and sore the next day from skating so long,” Gladys said. “I would’ve stayed home, but I went into work anyway because they were mad at me. Mom was on the front porch yelling because I got home so late.”

Dave said, “That boy never came back.”

Growing up in Jackson County

“I was about 11 when I joined the church because my sisters were too bashful to go to church, but I took their place and joined,” Gladys said. “Me and my brother went one time to Sunday school, and they gave us a big picture of Jesus, but Mom wouldn’t let us have it inside, so we put it in the outhouse.”

Gladys started work at Seymour Woolen Mills when she was just 15.

“I either had to go to work or go to school, and Dad wouldn’t buy me any books,” Gladys said. “I went nine days without any books at that school, and it was awful embarrassing because it was city people, and we never saw city people much.”

“Woolen Mills eventually was torn down and became Cummins,” Dean said. “Mom, Dave, Dan and me all worked in that building, and all of Mom’s sisters worked at the Woolen Mills, too.”

Dan Weasner, who lives in Kokomo, is Gladys’ oldest son.

Gladys said she worked there the longest of all of her sisters and was employed at the mill for 13 years.

The great outdoors

Gladys said there was about three ponds around their place growing up. One was a gravel pit, and they weren’t allowed to go there because it was deep.

”We had a boat that we made, and we used to stuff the cracks with rags so it’d keep the water out,” Gladys said. “We dipped water out as it would come in, and we would bend a straight pin to use as a fishing hook.”

Dave said he and his mom fished together until she was well up into her 80s.

“She’s caught big fish, some about three feet long,” Dave said. “She liked to mushroom hunt, too, and always liked to garden a lot. We used to go to garage sales, too.”

Living a long, full life

“Mom always did what she had to do to get through, like when Dave went into the service and was there about two years,” Dean said. “She was upset about that, so she took up knitting and crocheting, and she’d knit a lot of stuff and sweaters until the yarn was all gone.”

Dean said Gladys went barefoot the majority of her life unless she was in town, and the soles of her feet were probably tougher than soles on some shoes.

“In those days, you raised your own workforce, and large families were necessary back then,” Dean said. “Now, you don’t have the large families, so you don’t have as many people to rely on when you get older.”

Dave’s wife had passed away, so he took care of his mother at home until she was about 102.

“That’s when Mom had hip surgery after she fell and broke her hip up at her house, and then while she was at my house, she fell again and rebroke that hip,” Dave said. “It was a catastrophic break. They had to put a 10-inch plate in her leg up at Methodist Hospital.”

Her doctor said that’s the only time he had ever seen someone her age suffer that type of break and still be able to walk.

“Then she had another fall after that, and I couldn’t be with her all the time, so we thought the best thing for her was to move her to the nursing home,” Dave said. “I’d have taken care of her longer if I could have.”

Gladys attributes her long life to going to bed early and getting up early. She will turn 105 on Aug. 5. Many of her family members lived to be in their 80s and 90s.

“She has also had pneumonia and has recovered from that, too,” Dean said. “I think they need to figure out her genetic code and replicate it.”

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Name: Gladys Lucille Nichter Weasner

Born: Aug. 5, 1913, in Hayden

Parents: Frank Louis Nichter and Ruth Ann Carr Nichter

Married: Clyde Weasner on Sept. 14, 1935, in Scottsburg; he died in 1985

Siblings: Half brother, Lawrence Edward Nichter (deceased), Hazel Pearl Nichter Butcher (deceased), Willard Frank Nichter (deceased), Huldah Faye Nichter Butcher (deceased), Ruby Blanche Nichter Toborg (deceased), Muriel Virginia Nichter Carr (deceased), Esther Frances Nichter Wilkes (still living) and Charles Ernest Nichter (deceased)

Children: Daniel Lynn Weasner of Kokomo, David Lee Weasner of Seymour and Dean Louis Weasner of Greenwood

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Gladys Lucille Nichter Weasner lived on Rural Route 4 north of Rockford from 1935 until 1964. She then moved to Bobtown until about 1970 and then lived at 407 S. Chestnut St. in Seymour until moving to Jonesville in 1973, where she resided until 2012.

She has an eighth-grade education in Redding Township, graduating May 16, 1928. She has a lifelong love of reading on various subjects.

She loved to tend garden and had a large one in Jonesville that she tended until her late 90s. She loved fishing with her son, David, and was very good at it. She canned and preserved food throughout her life. She also liked sewing, knitting and crocheting.

She loves teddy bears and had a large collection at one time. She currently loves working jigsaw puzzles. She is a lifelong Methodist and a member of First United Methodist Church in Seymour. She also attended Calvary Baptist Church in Seymour from time to time.


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