I spoke at some length today with a man I have known for a few years as a casual acquaintance. He was born in 1944. He grew up here in central New York State on a small homestead. There were six children in his family and he recalls that, from a young age, he always had plenty of chores to do around home.
He told me that his mother and father both worked in a rope factory in the small city of Auburn which was maybe ten miles from their home. He related to me that his family was largely self sufficient when he was growing up. The only thing he recalls his parents buying from a grocery store in those days was flour and sugar.
His family had a large garden and they put up lots of food. They had a cow and two goats for milk. They always had two beef cows in the pasture. And they raised pigs. They also raised all kinds of poultry: chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, Guineas, and pigeons. They were grain-fed pigeons, so they were good eating.
He told me he remembers going to weekly small livestock auctions and old Billy goats would sell for two or three dollars. His father bought all the cheap Billy goats he could get. Back home the family butchered them and the meat went into the freezer.
The man’s father sold all the eggs and chickens he could raise to people at the factory where he worked. The Italians, Poles, and Ukrainians who lived in the ethnic neighborhoods of the city always wanted the chickens live.
The man remembers some Italian men coming to his family’s place out in the country and catching sparrows inside the barn at night. They made sparrow pie out of them.
As a boy, my friend raised fancy pigeons and Banty hens. To this day, he still keeps a small flock of these birds in a coop in his back yard.
My friend told me things back then were a lot different back than they are today.”It was,” he said, with a wistful gaze, "a good life.”
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