Russ' Vintage Iron

Vintage Photos Capture Life on the Farm

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Old photos have always intrigued me.

It could be a product of my childhood, as my mom took a bunch of photos during various family events as well as during just regular, everyday life. My parents have many picture books full of photos of me and my two sisters stretching over almost 45 years now.

My mom said she took a lot of photos of us because her parents did not take many photos while she and her sister were growing up. This is very true, as there aren't many photos of them as youngsters.

I always assumed the same was true for my dad's family -- until recently, that is.

We had a family reunion last winter for my dad's family. My grandparents were good Irish Catholics and had seven children -- four girls and three boys -- 17 grandchildren and (currently) 25 great-grandchildren. Their total decedents and spouses number around 70.

Around the time of the reunion, one of my dad's sisters made copies of the photos she had. It was interesting to look at these photos, the earliest of which was from the 1930s and the most recent from about 1980, the year my grandpa passed away.

A good portion of the photos are from the 1950s, as this was when most of the seven kids were growing up. While some are of important events, such as Christmases, Easters and birthday parties, many appear to be of just normal, everyday life on the farm.

There are photos of my dad's younger sisters playing inside the farmhouse as well as outside. There are pictures of my dad and his older brother sitting on the front steps of the yard, as well as one of the two of them on the roof of the house.

But, as a lover of vintage iron, the ones I enjoyed the most were photos of what was happening on the farm. There is a photo of my grandpa washing his new late-1940s GMC pickup in front of the barn. There is another one of my grandpa, my uncle and the hired man plowing in the spring of 1951 with the Farmall M, John Deere D and B.

And, in some of the photos, the vintage iron often appeared in the background. There are a few of the children on the place, and in the background was different farm equipment.

The photos during this time period also captured another interesting aspect of the farm: the dairy cattle. They operated a dairy at that time, and my grandpa originally milked shorthorns and later switched to milking Guernsey cattle in the '50s as my uncle worked into the operation.

There are various shots of different cattle in the collection of old photos. The interesting thing is that my uncles and dad can look at these photos even today -- some 60-plus years later -- and know THAT photo is the one and only time they had triplet calves and THAT photo is the home-raised heifer calf that was reserve champion at the county fair, and so on.

Then, in the mid-1960s, some of the photos are in color, which adds a different dynamic. In the mid- to late 1960s, my dad shifted over to milking Holsteins, and there several photos of him and the black-and-white cows in the lots and in the milking parlor.

All of these photos provide a snapshot of everyday life on the family farm during this time before I was around. However, there were a few photos with me in them. One photo is of my folks on an old sled in the snow with me as a little baby on the farm. This had to be late winter 1974, as it was taken in January that year. There was another one of me and several of my cousins lined up on the floor at Christmas with presents in our hands.

The old saying "a photo is worth a thousand words" is definitely true, at least in my view.

Russ Quinn can be reached at