Research and Extension Travel History

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Farmers' Institute Trains -- 1905

Dr. J. T. Willard in his History of Kansas State College wrote:

        President Nichols persuaded the officers of the Rock Island railway system to operate a Farmers' Institute train in November, 1905. This covered the entire Kansas mileage of the system, a length of 1,030 miles. It made thirty-minute stops at 135 stations.


Travel>Train2-1        The train consisted of an engine, two ordinary coaches used as audience cars, a business car for the  use of the College party, and another for the railroad officials accompanying the train. In the business car a stateroom and berths provided accomodations for a party of seven so that physical needs were perfectly provided for.


        The trip required two weeks. At each stop a program on corn was usually given in one of the audience cars and one on wheat in the other. Evening sessions were held in halls in the towns where the night stops were made.


        Messrs. TenEyck, Willard, and Shoesmith made the entire trip. President Nichols and Regents McDowell and Berry, representatives of several agricultural papers and newspapers, and a number of officials of the Rock Island were present for a part or all of the time.


        The entire expense of this carefully organized trip was borne by the Rock Island company, including boarding the College speakers. Many of the meals were prepared and served in the business car.


        In December (1905) an agricultural train was operated over the central branch of the Missouri Pacific. Stops of one or two days were made at the towns where programs were given.


        Other series of Farmers' Institutes were held during the season of 1905-06, in which the railroads cooperated significantly along the lines of the Union Pacific, and St. Louis and San Francisco. Trains of this character became more frequent in succeeding years.


Transportation -- 1910 - 1917

Travel>Home Demo        These were the days when lucky people like some Home Demonstration agents drove roadsters or touring cars - if they had two seats they were "touring cars". There were Fords, White Steamers, Reos, and (Sara Jane Patton, Home Demonstration Agent in Cherokee County was driving a horse and buggy as late as 1918). Paved roads?  We didn't know that term. Kansas had just one "rocked road" that extended a short distance out of Kansas City, Kansas. Flexible metal "tire protectors" prevented blow-outs to some degree, and we considered ourselves very fortunate when we had to repair only three punctures as part of our day's work.


        When we turned a corner a little too fast (and they were corners, not curves in those days) , the rear tire on the outside curve flew off. There were no hydraulic jacks, we carried boards to place under the jack to keep it from driving into the dust or mud. And everyone who drove a car knew how to repair it.


        There were no garages in those days, but livery stables and blacksmith shops undertook the more complex repair jobs when a single woman owned her own car, but usually we did our own mechanical work.


        We were proud of our "electric" headlights in 1916 and 1917. The tail lights were still lit with matches. In a high wind the lights blew out and they couldn't be seen far anyway. The newer cars used distillate rather than gasoline or coal oil in their tail-lights and thought that was the "nth degree of the ultimate!"


        All tools were kept under the front seat, handy for the driver who needed them frequently and the spare tires were on the floor behind the front seat.


       The women came to our meetings from much the same distances as today, but much less often and in far more primitive forms of transportation. Outside the meeting places could be seen a very few rubber-tired buggies, usually surreys or wagons and a few saddle horses. Often open sheds were built near the hitching racks for the protection of the horses from the blazing sun or biting sleet.


Travel>Rough Roads        Persons who functioned as specialists came to the counties by train. County agents, where there were any agents, or some prominent local person, practically always met these "outside speakers" at the train. Instead of going to a hotel or motel, these specialists were frequently taken to some local home to be "entertained", but the specialists didn't like this idea of being "farmed out". They usually stayed in one locality from two to four days. Consequently, as long as the host family stayed awake the specialists had to keep on working on their job of talking home-making or farming. While the hotels were usually questionable, farming-out was even more of a gamble, with the odds favoring the hosts, I think.


        Travel expenses were held at a true minimum. Director Miller is said to have told his extension workers to rent their places near the railway depots to save cab fare. Oh, yes, we had cabs then! Manhattan had one! But cabs then were not taxis. They were horse-drawn vehicles. The one driven by Mr. Bilger of Manhattan boasted vases - glass vases for flowers! Red paper roses! From the inside the thing appeared like a hearse does from the outside.


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