In summer, the farmers would gather at the store, sitting on the hitching railing or boxes, and while away the hours. If sixty, they thought they were too old to work, so they were like the story George Ade used to tell. He asked the old Hoosier how he accounted for his longevity, and the old farmer thought he was talking about his beard, and answered, "I just let it grow."
Those farmers often had 4 or 5 boys at home to do the work. They stayed at home because they had no chance to go to public works, so they stayed at home until they could earn enough money to start farming for themselves. I have known these boys to go to school when 21 or more years old. After the corn was put away and the butchering done, after Christmas they would attend school until the spring work started. They could at least keep warm until spring.
In the evenings, the boys would assemble at the country store, walking distances of 2 or 3 miles, loaf the evening away until about nine when the storekeeper would close the store for the day. What a difference from today when the youth cannot walk two blocks to catch a school bus. We would buy a 5-cent can of sardines, and the storekeeper would throw in the crackers, and we thought we had a feast!
In those days, people made their own entertainment. They never had much money to spend, so they relied on Spelling Bees, Ice Cream Festivals, Signing Classes and School Exhibitions. We would hire an old gentleman for 2 or 3 dollars a night to teach singing, with the understanding that there wouldn't be much singing, but lots of intermissions. He was very earnest in his endeavor to teach us the notes, but nobody paid much attention to him. It was a place for the boys and girls to meet and spend the evening.
When the Christian Endeavor Society would get new singing books, they would gather in the evening at different homes to learn the new music. They would sing until about 9:30 or 10:00, then partake of a snack, then back home and bed. There was a real sociability all among the farmers of that day. They had to make their own social life; an art that is lost in this day.
This has not always been the case in our township. The population of our township was made up principally of German settlers, interspersed with a few Scotch-Irish families. In my grandfather's day, a meeting of the two factions usually resulted in a fist fight. Things had improved in my father's youth, but still there was little social mingling. However, again in the 3rd generation, they had all learned to live together quite amicably.