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NORTH COUNTRY AT WORK: Remembering family farm work in Pillar Point

February 16, 2018
By ERIN?WATERS and AMY FEIEREISEL - NCPR intern and correspondent , Lake Placid News

PILLAR POINT - June Rockwood McCartin grew up on a small dairy farm with about a dozen cows just outside of the village of Dexter in the small community of Pillar Point.

Growing up in the 1940s, her childhood along with those of her four siblings was filled with lots of responsibilities in a time with few amenities. When she was very young, she remembers her father using horses and loading wheat into wagons by hand rather than with the specialized machinery of today. Her family did not have electricity until she was a teenager and so the cows were milked by hand and the milk had to be kept cool with ice until her father could bring it to the cheese factory in Limerick.

"Everybody had a job to do. I was the oldest girl so I had to watch the younger girls while [my mother and father] were out to the barn."

Article Photos

June, Alice, Rose and Allen stand in front of the Rockwood farmhouse in the early 1930s.
(Photo courtesy of John Stano)

She had other responsibilities as well, and was expected to pitch in and help with whatever needed to be done.

"When I was younger we had huge gardens and my mother and I would do the canning, all day long we would be canning something or another."

June also recalls what it felt like to grow up on a farm while many of her peers grew up in the village. As a child she often felt as though there was a divide between those who lived on the farms and those who grew up in town, but her views have shifted as she has grown up and reflected back.

She is now grateful for all of the experiences that she had.

"I think we on the farm thought we were left out sometimes, because kids in the village would say all the fun they had and they would go and meet here and there while we were home working. I can remember sort of feeling ashamed that I was on the farm, ashamed to have the village kids come to my house, and years and years later I found out from one of my friends from school who lived in the village she loved to come to the farm and I didn't know that until after we had all grown up. She said she had so much fun down there and I now think that we really were better ready to go out into life being raised on a farm because we always had responsibilities. I think it prepared us for going out in life and being ready to take on a job."

Although life on a farm could be a lot of work, June also notes that her childhood was filled with more than just chores.

"We also had fun. Almost every Monday we would go to my maternal grandmother and grandfather's house and there were always so many kids there, we just played and would slide downhill on the old ice cutter, but we had a lot of fun. It wasn't all work."

Farming is an important part of June's family history, her father grew up on the same farm she did, while her mother grew up right down the road. She even has a diary that her paternal grandmother, Rose Rockwood, kept describing her day to day life. June enjoys looking through her grandmother's entries.

"Maybe she would clean the stove pipes in the morning and cook three to four turkeys and six pies. On Mondays I believe it was her wash day to do the white clothes on a scrub board and hang them outside, summer, winter, whenever, and Tuesdays she did the dark clothes, it just tires me out just reading all the work that she did, and she might stay up all night sewing a coat for somebody because the weather turned cold. She would get old hand-me-down clothes, coats from other people that had out worn them, and she would take them all apart and cut out something smaller for her children."

Farming helped to shape June's life, although she did not continue with the family business as an adult. Except for a short period of about five years that she lived in Syracuse and worked as a clerk for the New York State Social Services, Dexter had been her home. She has now worked as town clerk for the past 35 years for the village of Dexter.

 
 

 

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