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My Sixty Years with Rural Youth

My Sixty Years with Rural Youth

T. A. Erickson
Copyright Date: 1956
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    My Sixty Years with Rural Youth
    Book Description:

    My Sixty Years with Rural Youth was first published in 1956. Reading this book will be like a personal visit and reminiscence for the thousands of persons, particularly in rural Minnesota and the Middle West, who have known the author affectionately as “Dad” Erickson. Mr. Erickson devoted much of his life to the 4-H club program for rural youth, serving as state 4-H leader in Minnesota for nearly 30 years. During that time, about half a million boys and girls became 4-H club members in the state and grew up to be better citizens, better farmers, and better homemakers because of “Dad” Erickson’s teaching and inspiration. Besides its warm, personal appeal, this book has another and perhaps broader significance. The story Mr. Erickson tells is, in large measure, a documentation of the development of 4-H club work. As such, it is an important chapter in the agricultural history of Minnesota and of the nation as a whole, since the 4-H movement has profoundly affected the course of agriculture in this country. One of the reasons for the founding of the organization was an alarming drift away from the farms of young people, half a century ago. Through the 4-H program, rural life was made more attractive, and farm youngsters got a more equitable share of America’s cultural, social, and economic opportunities and rewards. In his autobiography, Mr. Erickson covers a long life span that began on a Minnesota farm in the hardship and poverty that were common to the time and place. He tells how the people lived, how they farmed, and what their schools and churches were like. And, as his story advances through the years, we see the remarkable changes in rural living that have occurred in one lifetime.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6228-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. v-x)
    Skuli Rutford

    THOSE who have been 4-H Club members in Minnesota, or who have worked with or watched the growth of the program in the state, will be happy to know that T. A. “Dad” Erickson has found time to tell the story of his life and work. The 4-H Club program, as it is now known, had beginnings in many places, and many people contributed to its growth, but in Minnesota the story of 4-H Club work and the life story of T. A. Erickson are very closely interwoven.

    In the early chapters we get a picture of a pioneer family...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Today and Yesterday
    (pp. 3-11)

    FOR more than thirty years, I have gone to the annual National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago, an event which receives as much publicity through press, radio, and television as the World Series. For the farm boys and girls who win a free week-long trip to the 4-H Congress, it is like a fairy tale come true. A lavish, dazzling succession of banquets, shows, sightseeing excursions, exhibits, and countless awards and honors go to make up an experience no youngster could ever forget

    Reporters and cameramen are impressed by the fact that big, outstanding business concerns like General Motors, International...

  5. A Farm Boyhood
    (pp. 12-26)

    MY FATHER,Anders Peter Erickson, and my mother, Emma Fredericka Larson, were married in Smaland province in Sweden in 1866. Times in Sweden were very hard, and three uncles who had already left Sweden for homesteads in Douglas County, Minnesota, wrote urging Father and Mother to come to the wonderland, America. My parents had enough property to sell to pay for tickets, and in 1868 they came to Minnesota bringing their first son, my brother Charles Alfred, with them.

    After many stormy, seasick weeks on a sailing vessel and the trip across country to St. Paul, they had only a dollar...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. Schoolboy and Teacher
    (pp. 27-38)

    WE ERICKSON children were lucky in having home training far advanced for the times, but our schooling was another story. For about five months out of each year we attended the old log schoolhouse in District No. 22. The building wasn’t large — about eighteen by twenty-four feet — and it backed onto a farmer’s field. The fence touched it on both sides so that our only yard was the space out front, and our playground was the public highway, a narrow dirt road.

    The ceiling of the schoolroom was made of rough, hand-hewn boards laid over poles cut smooth...

  8. More Learning, More Teaching
    (pp. 39-47)

    MY BROTHER Charlie had gone straight on to the University of Minnesota after his graduation from high school, and I had always thought that sooner or later I would try to follow him there for my own college education. But the immediate rewards and satisfactions of teaching school kept me from joining Charlie at the university for several years. Then, to the great sorrow of our close-knit family, Charlie contracted typhoid fever and died before the start of his senior year.

    I gave up thoughts of the university for some time, but in the summer of 1895 I did make...

  9. Newfangled Notions
    (pp. 48-63)

    AS SUPERINTENDENT of schools I knew I would have to drive all over Douglas County, which is fifty miles across, to visit its 103 rural schools. For this purpose I needed a team of light horses with stamina and speed. Though I had been used to horses nearly all my life, I knew little about animals of this type, so I took the advice of our local expert, Pastor Benson of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, to look at a shipment of Montana broncos at nearby Tryshil.

    All I knew about broncos was what I had seen at the circus, but...

  10. County Superintendent
    (pp. 64-74)

    THE period while I was county superintendent of schools, from 1902 to 1912, was a decade of transition in American education. The attitude toward children was changing, and youngsters in general began to have a better time of it. Teachers still used “busy work” in schools, keeping children quiet with paper cutting and other useless activity while they waited to recite, but the memorizing and drill of my childhood began to give way to methods more like those my parents had used to train us at home.

    At the time the pattern of our country schools had been set a...

  11. State Club Leader
    (pp. 75-84)

    WHEN I first began my new job working with boys’ and girls’ clubs in 1912,I started pretty much from scratch. I had no staff, no club members except in a few isolated local groups, no rules to go by. Few people in Minnesota had even heard of boys’ and girls’ clubs, so my first task was to go out and tell them.

    “Shall I write out my talks ahead of time?” I asked Archie Wilson.

    “No, T.A.,” he said. “Just talk to farmers about their farm work and encourage them to talk about their own ideas. Tell them what we...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. Our Clubs Take Root
    (pp. 85-96)

    IN THE first years of my work as state club leader we had many obstacles to overcome. Seed, soil, and instructions alone were not enough to start a new club on, for instance, a corn-growing project. We couldn’t even get to the point of breaking ground without first selling the idea that a boy or girl could be trusted to undertake even part of a man’s or woman’s job. Fathers were reluctant to risk money for projects, or unwilling to lend land for fear it might be wasted. The young people themselves lacked confidence, and initiative in anyone not yet...

  14. 4-H in Bloom
    (pp. 97-113)

    WE EXTENSION people used to go to Washington quite often for conferences at national boys’ and girls’ club headquarters. There Oscar Benson would take charge of us, give us talks in his energetic, sonorous style and, often as not, demonstrate some new method in the workroom at his office. On one of my earliest trips, about 1913, he undertook to teach Mr. Howard and me how to can. When he was through we knew how to prepare vegetables and meats, how to pack them in clean jars, and how to process them either in a pressure cooker or a water...

  15. Come to the Fair
    (pp. 114-124)

    FAIRS have always thrilled me since I went to my first one in Alexandria as a very small boy. To us with Swedish traditions, it was the festivemarknadtransplanted to new soil. As soon as I was able, I began to win a few blue ribbons and prizes with our good red apples, and treated as many as six girls at once to pink lemonade. Then, to my great disappointment, our small county fair began to decline and die. The reasons were not very clear to me then, but I now believe that the exhibits were not related closely...

  16. A New Job
    (pp. 125-144)

    MY LIFE as state leader of 4-H Clubs had grown busier every year, and 1939, the year we got our new 4-H building at the fair grounds, was one of the busiest. So I seldom had time to think about a certain matter that suddenly became very important early in 1940 — my age, which was sixty-eight. I had to read the university president’s letter over several times before I fully grasped the fact that I had reached the mandatory retirement age and could not keep my job after July 1.

    My salary had never been large and I had...

  17. 4-H Youngsters
    (pp. 145-158)

    A LONG, long time ago on a cold, gray day in late fall, I came upon two boys sitting by a corn shock in a dun-colored field husking corn from one stalk at a time. That is the way everybody used to husk corn until machines came along to reap and husk the standing grain; but those boys sitting in the meager shelter of the shock looked so forlorn that I pulled up my team of broncos and got out of the buggy.

    “Hello, boys,” I said, walking toward them, “how is the corn husking?”

    They only grunted.

    “Why aren’t...

  18. Index
    (pp. 159-162)