Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hot Summer Days and Magazines

Today started out hot. At 8:30 am it was already 80 degrees. It's only going to get hotter as the day goes on. I'm sitting here in front of the fan and the computer with my ice coffee  thinking about the days when we didn't have any air conditioning and what we did to escape the heat and humidity. That was back in Iowa when I was a kid. I don't know how my farming uncles and cousins did it when they didn't have air conditioned tractor cabs. I just remember them coming in from the fields and taking off their baseball caps and their foreheads were absolutely white and their faces were absolutely brown. They had righteous famer tans and they weren't ashamed or embarrassed. My aunt and gramma had pitchers of ice tea or lemonade for them to drink. We got by somehow. They were the healthiest people. Never sick a day in their lives.

When it got too hot and humid for us kids to play outside and we weren't going to the pool we went downstairs to the basement. The basement was the coolest place in the house. It was a partially finished basement with the concrete blocks sealed to keep moisture from coming in. Down there my mom had all the Life magazines that had ever been published from the time it started. I think my artistic eye was developed looking at all those magazines for all those years. I had so many years to look at them and many summer days. When I finally became a graphic designer years later I had absorbed the pictorial layout of Life's style in to my bones.

So dramatic.

My mom also had a few copies of Wallaces' Farmer.

Wallaces' Farmer started out as Prairie Farmer in 1841.  It became Wallaces' Farmer in 1855. Wallaces' Farmer kept a record of the changes in Iowa agriculture and provided information to help farmers trim costs and boost profits. I guess my mom must have come across the copies that I then studied in our basement when it was too hot outside. We lived in Iowa. Iowa farming was the subject matter of the periodicals. Three generations of the Wallace family; Henry Cantwell Wallace, Henry A. Wallace, and Henry Browne Wallace, owned and operated Wallaces' Farmer. That's why it was "Wallaces' " with the plural apostrophe, I guess. There were many Wallaces involved. Not just one.

That got me interested in looking into the history of the publication I write for. Capper's Farmer was started by Arthur Capper who was born in Garnett, Kansas.

Look at those happy kids awaiting their meal. Was life simpler then?  Everyone seems to think so but I doubt it. Just a different set of issues. Issues are part and parcel to the human experience and we can think about it which makes them all that more interesting.

Arthur Capper attended the public schools and learned the art of printing. He then became a newspaper publisher, eventually owning several newspapers and two radio stations. Capper was particularly interested in issues relating to agriculture. Eventually he became governor of Kansas and also served as a United States Senator. After retiring from the Senate, Capper returned to his home in Topeka, Kansas where he continued the newspaper publishing business until his death. Now his publications are part of Ogden Publications which are based in Topeka.


I remember the first day we finally got air conditioning. My dad worked for Lennox Heating and Air Conditioning at the headquarters in Marshalltown, Iowa. We got a large central unit A/C and our house windows were closed when they turned it on. The formerly stifling house cooled. Before that it was almost impossible to sleep some nights. My mom would put a fan in the hallway and turn it on full blast as some nights there wasn't even a faint breeze coming in to the house. 

But the air conditioning made my mom sad. She always said one of the greatest pleasures in life was the breeze blowing the curtains in the open windows. I still think of my mom and always have my windows open as long as I can stand it. Magazines and hot summer days are connected for me. Just think of how that little statement my mom made stayed with me and has contributed to the person I am today. For better or for worse.

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