Farm kitchen promotional items tell the story of Iowa ag
Like many of you, I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen lately, cooking holiday meals, baking cookies and making big pots of warm, hearty homemade soup. As I was washing a few dishes the other night, a wooden-handled cookie spatula caught my eye.
While the stainless-steel blade is printed with the John Deere logo and “Merry Christmas 1966, Snyder Implement Co., Lake City, Iowa,” it’s faint enough that you could miss it. Yet this handy gadget endures after 52 years of dedicated service.
I inherited it from my Grandma Katherine Dougherty, and it’s one of my go-to gadgets for lifting cake squares and brownies from their baking pan.
I remember many trips to Snyder Implement when it was located along the north side of Highway 175 east of Lake City. This was the early 1980s, and I loved tagging along with my dad on his trips to town. I loved seeing the farm toys in Snyder’s display area around the corner from the parts counter. I also remember begging Dad for some coins so I could get a treat from the candy machine by the door that led into the shop where the mechanics worked.
While Snyder Implement closed by the mid-1980s, those memories – and that cookie spatula from Christmas 1966 – remain. As I looked around my kitchen, I started thinking how many things record a history of rural Iowa over the last 100 years, from diversified farms to small-town businesses to the role of home cooking.
Some gadgets reflect my family’s deep ties to Calhoun County. I love my blue, glazed ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of 3-inch tall grain elevators printed with the words “Famers Coop Grain Co., Yetter, Iowa.” I also have a magnetic clip with the iconic double-circle logo from Farmers Co-op Grain Co., which had expanded to Yetter and Lake City by the time this item was made.
The phone numbers on the clip reflect the seven-digit phone system with Lake City’s 464 prefix, which came into use sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s, to the best of my research. The seven-digit phone system apparently wasn’t in use when Arndt’s Cafe & Tavern at Yetter had plastic combination salt-and-pepper shakers. The blue shaker in my collection notes that you should phone 24-95 (Auburn) to call the cafe, which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Arndt.
Other items in my kitchen also hint at history that’s long past. Consider my metal flour sifters from the Auburn Hardware Co., Auburn, Iowa, (“Where you always get a square deal”) and Zehms Grocery in Knierim. “When it’s sifted down, you’ll find it pays to trade with Zehms Grocery,” proclaims the yellow, black and red sifter, which noted that Zehms paid cash for poultry, cream and eggs.
Then there are my vintage hot pads from Farmers Co-operative Creamery, phone 243, in Corning ( “Butter Your Income with Us,” and “Try Your Co-op First”), and the C-D Farm Service Company in Spencer, which offered petroleum, L.P. gas, fertilizers, feed, seed, chemicals, twine, motor oils, grease and animal health products.
Some promotional items in my kitchen are purely decorative, like a green, wall-mounted match holder printed with “For Better Chicks: Iowa Master Breeders, Hatchery, Carroll, Iowa.” Others things I still use, even though they are decades old, like my plastic Roland-Nevada Co-op Elevator Assoc. ice-cube tray (“Do Business with Your Business”), a serrated knife from the Jamaica Farmers Grain Company, Jamaica, Iowa, and a handy white mixing bowl that’s possibly Fire King and is printed in red letters with “S & M Service, Phone 6111, Peterson, IA. Service Tailored to Your Satisfaction.”
I wonder how many of these companies are still in business? Not many, I suspect, although some have merged into larger companies that still serve the area.
While companies don’t give away as many kitchen-oriented gadgets as they used to, I love my plastic spatula I got a few years ago from Ag Partners, my colorful plastic measuring spoons from Stine Seed and my flexible plastic cutting board from Latham Hi-Tech Seeds.
Just like the branded, promotional kitchen gadgets from previous generations, these modern items tell a story about the evolution of rural Iowa. Yet some things never change, like the need for handy tools and the pleasure of eating home-cooked meals.
Mmmm, I could go for some cake. Where’s that John Deere spatula?
Have any branded kitchen gadgets in your kitchen that you love? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darcy Dougherty-Maulsby (a.k.a) Yetter-girl grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and is proud to call Calhoun County home.
Contact her at email@example.com and visit her online at www.darcymaulsby.com.
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