Rolfe, Iowa, in the ’40s and ’50s: The Wickre Story (About those feed sacks…)


After I posted in July about the feed sacks available in the 1950s (and maybe the ’40s?) from Barbara and Henry Wickre’s Climax Feed and Grain in Rolfe, Iowa, I was pleasantly surprised to receive more information from Loel Diggs about those sacks.

Loel is the son of the late Emma and Tom Diggs. He is a 1956 graduate of D.M.T. (Des Moines Township school) which is a little more than four miles northeast of Rolfe, Iowa. (Before my junior high years, which were from the fall of 1966 through the spring of 1969, the D.M.T. school building had become the Rolfe Community School District junior high building. My Rolfe graduating class of ’73 was the last class to have “eighth grade graduation” from/at D.M.T.)

Loel emailed to me the following information about the sacks mentioned by Sharon (Wickre) Rickard in previous posts. His initial information prompted my reply of several questions which resulted in his also telling me about his pickup.

Our email conversations and photos supplied by Loel went as follows.

Here is the Diggs' Farm pickup "loaded for the trip to town" (i.e., Rolfe). (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Loel: I liked your last posting on the Climax Feed & Grain. When in high school (and Dad had bought the pickup) I would take our corn and oats to the mill, have it mixed and ground with feed concentrate, sacked and taken back to the farm and used to feed the flock of laying hens being raised. By the time we had the pickup [1955], the imprinted feed sacks had pretty much disappeared and the concentrate or feed additives were being supplied in paper bags. However, the accumulation of prior cloth feed sacks, from the farm, were the feed sacks that were filled with the mixed and ground feed that I hauled back to the farm.

Loel: I do remember the imprinted feed sacks. Those were the sacks that Mom and my sister would make into dresses, aprons and other stuff. The imprinted concentrate feed sacks, as Sharon states, were delivered  to the farm with their delivery truck or would be brought home by my folks. Then the grinding and mixing of the chicken and other needed ground livestock feed was done on the farm. It was ground with a tractor-belt-driven stationary hammer mill that was hand fed with a scoop shovel.

Loel: If Mother or my sister liked the imprint on the sacks, the imprinted sack only saw the original fill of concentrate feed. Some of the non-imprinted sacks would be made into dish towels, or used over and over again to contain the prepared feed that would be brought back to the farm to be fed. I always enjoyed taking the grain to town (to get it mixed and ground) because it allowed me a chance to get off the farm for a couple of hours during the day.

* * * * * * * *

This next set of emailed Q. and A. is in response to Loel’s first comments (those immediately above).

Louise: Are the imprinted sacks the ones that had the stripes and other designs on them that Sharon talked about in her first and second audio recording segments? And, the non-imprinted ones just plain?

Loel: Yes. The imprinted sacks were the ones that had all different designs as imprinted fabric does today. The non-imprinted sacks were just plain sacks with no identification on the sacks other than an identification tag sewn into the stitches to close the sack. Some feed sacks would come with a brand name imprinted on the fabric (such as FELCO Feeds). If Mom was going to use these, she would first bleach the sacks until the imprint would disappear off the fabric before being made into dish towels.

* * * * * * * *

Later this week I’ll post Part II of Loel’s and my communication in regard to Climax Feed and Grain and also about Loel’s 1955 Chevy pickup.

(Click here to go to Louise Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


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3 Responses to “Rolfe, Iowa, in the ’40s and ’50s: The Wickre Story (About those feed sacks…)”

  1. Peg Moore Says:

    Fascinating! Thanks, Loel, for being in touch with Louise and for your great descriptions! I think I had one of those bags–don’t know where I got it, though–used decoratively from 1988-2006 in our home in Michigan. Maybe Jeff will remember what it said. It was a logo of a seed company. And it was that muslin-like fabric. I put an embroidery hoop around the logo and displayed it in our guest room all those years. Before we moved, I think I sold it at a garage sale. Now I wish I had it! Also, I think Jeff might have some smaller ones from his old days at the seed lab at Botany Hall at ISU. Or maybe from somewhere else. Anyway, I’ll ask him when I get back home. Sounds like the ones Jeff and I had/have are a little different than yours, Loel, but very similar. I didn’t realize they came in all kinds of prints, like fabric does today, and that *that’s* why they were suitable for being made into clothing. Learn something new every day! 🙂

  2. Marti Gunderson Carlson Says:

    I really enjoyed reading the conversation with Loel and the information about the feed sacks.

  3. Peg Moore Says:

    Hi Louise and Loel,

    Well, I checked to see what seed bags were still in our house. Alas, I did indeed sell my framed (in embroidery hoop) seed bag. I believe maybe it was DEKALB with that winged corn logo. So, maybe that wasn’t that old after all? And definitely not material to be made into anything “pretty.”

    Also, Jeff has a half-dozen or so different kinds of bags–bags used at the Old Botany building at Iowa State where he worked in the ’70s, helping ISU test corn, beans, etc. for farmers. (I realize this is considerably later than the ’50s-style bags.) Most of the bags would maybe only hold a quart or so of seed. Except one would probably hold a gallon or so. All of those have some kind of ISU text printed or written on the bags. And then there’s one that’s about 14″ x 28″ and plain (no text or color or pattern/print) and in that seedbag fabric. I know none of these are quite like or used for purposes quite like you mentioned, Loel, but what you explained to us got me thinking . . . and then looking for seed bags here. I’d still enjoy seeing the real thing sometime. 🙂


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