Archive for January, 2013

Villa Grove, Illinois

January 6, 2013 7 comments


A while back I took some pictures in Villa Grove using a Holga lens for a digital Canon camera.  I misplaced them on my computer and only just came across them today while I was looking for something else.  Still this post is more about Villa Grove than about a lens.  The image of above is of the old water tower in Villa Grove. To me at least if there is any icon for Villa Grove it is that water tower.  The brick building in front was a library and then was the police station.  Currently I believe it is slated to be torn down.

Villa Grove is a town of 2500 around 20 miles south of Champaign-Urbana IL. Villa Grove came to be the town it is today just after the start of the 20th century when the C&EI railroad decided to build shops there.  The downtown and most of the older housing in Villa Grove came to be as a result of the C&EI shops.  The shops closed down sometime in the 1950’s when the C&EI switched to Diesel power.


Villa Grove continued to have a healthy downtown up until the 1970’s.  The building here was once  a bank.  I think it is vacant now.  On this corner the City of Villa Grove once placed a Christmas tree in the middle of the street.  When I was a kid it seemed like it was a tradition that someone would get drunk and drive their car into the tree.  Once the Christmas tree crasher was said to have been one of the teachers at the local high school.  Nobody seems to have taken this very seriously at the time.


The sign is off the Gem Theater, however it was open until recently and there is a possibility that it may open again. I can remember times in the 1960’s when people lined up around the block waiting to see a movie here.


This was Roy French’s barber shop when I was a kid.  I probably got my first haircut here.  I remember there was a box of toys and comic books for kids.


A typical residential street in Villa Grove.  Most of the houses in Villa Grove are ordinary in size.  There isn’t a section of the town where there are larger houses that the better off people lived in.  Just looking at the houses Villa Grove appears to have always been fairly solidly middle or working class.

Picking Corn

January 1, 2013 1 comment


I decided to start the new year by reviving this blog.  Since many of my old posts here were things about farming as I remember it as a kid growing up in the 1960’s I figure a good starting point is what I was reminded of while at the Parke County IN Covered Bridge Festival last fall.  The photo is of an attachment that was once added to a tractor to pick corn.  I remember my father using something like this back in the early 60’s.  It could pick two rows of corn at a time.  There was a shoot with a conveyor in the back that moved the corn to a wagon attached to the rear of the tractor.  I remember the tractor that my father used was a John Deere.  When the wagon was full he would use another tractor to pull the wagon to where it would be unloaded.  I remember that the tractor he used for that was an International Farmall like the one in the photo. 


As I remember the wagon he used looked exactly like the one in this photo.   I saw both the wagon and the corn picker in a building that was part of the attractions at the CBF.  I ended up converting both images to B&W because the lighting in the building made a horrible color cast that I could not get rid of. Today this the corn picker and especially the wagon look like ancient history even to someone like me who remembers when they were commonplace and state of the art. And I imagine they seemed like a wonder to farmers who grew up picking corn by hand. Still even with these aids corn harvest was a long process. I remember that in the fall harvest occupied all of my father’s waking hours for weeks at a time. 


Once the corn was picked it was placed in a corn crib. Corn cribs are often identified as barns, however they were a specialized structure used for the purpose of drying and storing corn back in the days when corn was harvested as a whole ear, instead of being shelled in the field as is done today.  There was a conveyor called a corn dump which went to an opening at the top of the corn crib.  The corn was raised to the top of the corn crib and then directed by shoots within the crib to the bins within the corn crib.  So all of this was quite a bit of work.  Picking corn two rows at a time, then taking it to the corn crib and dumping it.  The corn crib in this photo was one of the last types of corn cribs to be built.  I actually remember it being built in the early 60’s.  It was only used for a few years until it was made obsolete by corn pickers that would shell the corn in the field. 

In one of my old blogs I described in some detail the process of using a corn crib as I remember it. I don’t think that post is online anymore.  Hopefully I can find that post and recreate it here.  Today when I see the huge combines and trucks that make fast work of harvest I wonder how primitive the harvest of just what seems like a short time ago must seem. 

So here is this blog alive again.  Looks like I haven’t posted here in over two years.  As some may know I have been doing a photography blog, however I have been getting a renewed desire to do a more general blog.  Maybe I will even offer some opinions which is something I have been avoiding for a while.