Meet Bernice Price

No electricity. No indoor plumbing. No telephones, let alone cell phones. That is what life was like growing up in the 1920s, and Bernice Hill Stevens Price knows all about that. "Our first light was in the kitchen. It was one light bulb," Mrs. Price, 96, said. "Our first appliance was an iron. We had one outlet [in our house]."

Hill family, circa late 1920s. Bernice is top row, far left. Her parents (front, center) were Arthur and
Carmel Hill. Photo courtesy of her relative, Brent Natzle.

Born Sept. 23, 1912, Mrs. Price grew up in rural Pennsylvania with four siblings. They lived in Salt Springs near Franklin Forks in many houses, she said, but always in the same area.

Aside: "My name is Craig Stevens and I am a sixth generation landowner in Silver Lake Township, Pennsylvania. My family has a farmhouse on one acre called Snow Hollow Farm that was established in 1832. . . . My grandmother Bernice Marie Hill Stevens Price just passed away on January 21st at 97 years old. She was born on the Salt Springs Park property in 1912 in a cabin that is still standing, and lived 80 years of her life in the little house in the Hollow."

Mrs. Price attended two schools until eighth grade: Fox School House for one year and then Richmond School for seven years, both in Brackney, Silver Lake Township and are one-room school houses, which are still standing today. Richmond School House is occasionally opened to the public.

Children were considered lucky if they got to go to school, Mrs. Price said. Schooling was much different then. Teachers were stricter, and classes were smaller. Most students went only until eighth grade. Kids wrote on a slate with chalk, and there wasn't any technology. The way children traveled to school was different, too. Today kids complain if the bus is cold, but back then, there was no such thing as a bus.

"Our 'bus' was a wagon with a team, two horses attached. We rode a horse and buggy to school," Mrs. Price said. "We would ride a sleigh if it was snowy. I remember who our driver was, Mr. Frank Canane."

In the 1920's most people in the county lived on farms, and Mrs. Price was no exception. "Everyone had a farm with about 10–15 heads of cattle. Everyone helped one another, not just to be nice, but because they were concerned and they cared," Mrs. Price said.

There were a lot of chores to be done on the farm, of course. Mrs. Price had to milk the cows twice daily, feed all the livestock (cows, chickens, and horses), tend the garden, and help around the house. One of her favorite tasks was working with the horses. Her brothers and father did the mowing and plowing. Her mom cooked and cleaned. They all worked together to keep the family running all year round.

"My mother canned everything she could get her hands on [for the winter]," Mrs. Price said with a chuckle.

Bernice didn't much like having her picture taken, so there aren't too many to be had. In those there are, though, she's often smiling big! Here she's enjoying the company of her daughter, Eloise Krogh.

The family grew all the crops they needed, had milk, and their own meat. They had a constant source of water since a creek flowed through their property. Overall, they lived a self-sufficient life. Sometimes they sold their extra crops for money. Her dad rented a threshing machine, a machine to separate grain, to help with the crops. There was one thresher in the neighborhood, and the families took turns renting it. The men of the neighborhood would help out whoever had the machine, and their wives would cook dinner for their husbands and their helpers.

"I remember the threshing machine making a racket. It was noisy," Mrs. Price said. "The grain would go down a shoot and come out the other end, looking like oatmeal. My mother would make this big dinner for all the men. They all came inside to eat. We worked for fun. When you feel good doing what you're doing, that's fun. You had to get work done first and then play."

People did different things for fun back then, such barn dances. Mrs. Price had her share of those.

"We went to a barn dance at Heart Lake once [about 10 miles away from my house.] It was winter and there were no hard roads, just snow covered ones. So we road a sleigh drawn by horse. But before we could go we had to get our chores done, of course: milk the cows, feed the livestock. We did get them done. We put straw or hey or whatever we had down [in the sleigh] so it wasn't hard. Our only source of heat was a lantern. We rode through snow drifts. We finally got to the barn and we danced a lot. It was really fun. But we had a long ride back. And once we got back we had more chores to do. It was night and the cows needed milking again and the livestock were hungry. We were so tired when we finally got to bed. We don't do things like that anymore," Mrs. Price said.

Mrs. Price's family wasn't rich, but they weren't poor, she said. They had work clothes and special clothes for going out for parties or to church. "My mother had a little bottle of perfume. She would dab it on the corner of a hanky and put it on her when we went out. She also had a little jar of face powder." Mrs. Price said.

Bernice standing at the end of the drive at the Hill family farm, Snow Hollow. The car on the left is believed to be a 1932 Ford. Photo courtesy of her relative, Brent Natzle.

On the farm, the kids were taught how to work with the cattle. Mrs. Price's father said "not to lie to the cattle." The cattle knew where to go for feeding time. If they were reluctant, the kids would bribe them with food. But they to make sure they really had the food to give them. "Don't ever lie to the cattle that you have food, and you really don't. Don't ever lie to anyone," Mrs. Price's father told her.

Values and morals were taught to Mrs. Price and her siblings, whether it was through stories or farm work.

"[My dad said], 'If you tell the truth, you can forget it. If you tell a lie, you better not forget it,'" Mrs. Price said.

Living in the country was different than living in the city. When the Great Depression came, the Hill family hardly noticed. They had always been self-sufficient since they had the farm, but they didn't exactly live a life of luxury. "Our neighbors said we were all paupers. We didn't realize what was going on. It was just the way you did things. If we had lived in the city, it probably would have been different. [But] there was always a bin of apples or potatoes and some meat in the cellar. My dad said we wouldn't go hungry," Mrs. Price said.

Her family had all their own meat, vegetables, fruit, milk and butter. They had enough help to keep the farm running. "Your family and people were your living," Mrs. Price said.

Back then, people were always helping one another and their families. They used favors for bartering.

"People worked and were concerned for others. We all needed each other. If your neighbor got home late, you went over to see why," Mrs. Price said.

Mrs. Price knows lots of people and has a big family. One of her relatives served in the Civil War. He was her great-uncle Oliver Hill. He was in the Battle of Gettysburg. Mrs. Price has been able to track down her great-uncle's history. "We took a tour of Gettysburg and the [tour] guide showed us a monument with [my uncle's] name on it. He died in the war. He was the first in line while fighting," Mrs. Price said.

Bernice scrunching into an old school desk in her kitchen. The desks are from the Fox School, the one-room schoolhouse Bernice attended as a child. Photo courtesy of her daughter, Eloise Krogh.

Widowed twice with three children, nine grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren, Mrs. Price's first car was an automatic shift that she got after she first got married. She was never really into politics and doesn't remember who the first president she voted for was, but she has voted. When the first man landed on the moon, Mrs. Price and her family expected it.

"My father loved nature. One night [in the 1940's] he was talking to Lloyd [my son] on our back porch. He looked up at the sky and said 'Someday they're gonna put a man on the moon.' So the joke was that we always knew they would put a man on the moon because 'Grandpa said so!'" Mrs. Price recalled.

With lots of stories to tell, Mrs. Price still lives the way her parents taught her: with honesty and kindness. One of her favorite sayings is, "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you."

"I didn't think I'd live to be this old! Do you ever think if you will? You just go along doing things day by day," Mrs. Price said.

To this day, Mrs. Price still gets her hair done and her fingernails painted. She doesn't watch much TV, if at all, and she goes to church services. Maybe her secret to a long life lies in one of her mottos.

"Just keep on keepin' on."

© Johanna Hripto 2010