A look back with Nebraska Farmer, 1956

Nebraska Notebook

No. 1 stockyards in the world, 150-bushel corn and a Hawaii vacation

Published on: December 30, 2013

I was a youngster during the 1950s on our farm in northeast Nebraska. I hold no special memories of 1956, although my father did buy a blue 1956 Chevy, a car I wished I had today.

I bring up that particular year because during a noon break in our small office library recently I happened to pull from the shelves the 1956 bound volume of Nebraska Farmer.

I lost track of time leafing through the pages, reading about Nebraska agriculture trends and issues the staff reported on back then. It's amazing how agriculture has changed since then, but it's also fascinating to see some of the same issues we face today were the same ones back then, like groundwater pumping, soil erosion, farm prices and taxes.

The first two issues of Nebraska Farmer in 1956 brought significant changes to the magazine. Sam R. McKelvie died Jan. 6 that year. He was an icon at Nebraska Farmer and a prominent Nebraska politician and leader. McKelvie became editor before his 25th birthday and three years later in 1908 became principal owner and publisher.

He entered the political arena and, in 1937, was elected governor, carrying the label of "Nebraska's Boy Governor." After his tenure as governor, he returned to Nebraska Farmer. He also bought a Sandhills Ranch south of Valentine that he named "By the Way" Ranch, the same title as his Nebraska Farmer column

Also in that month, Editor Tom Leadley retired after a 43-career with the magazine, and was replaced by Carl Deitemeyer.

Advertisements of that year caught my eye, too.

A United Air Lines ad in early 1956 promoted a 7-day vacation to Hawaii, on a DC-7, for $407, including round-trip air fare. Another ad bragged about the new Oliver Super 99 GM diesel tractor. A new GE clothes dryer cost $179.95 that year.

Low farm prices, the farm program and grain surpluses spurred many letters to the editor in 1956.

Other tidbits from 1956 Nebraska Farmer:

  • In March, Nebraska Farmer for the first time focused most of one edition on irrigation, boasting about the state's 1.5 million irrigated acres and proclaiming "irrigation is big business in Nebraska." It was one of the largest Nebraska Farmer's published at that point with 124 pages.
  • Editors on an early 1956 Nebraska Farmer cover featured a photo of the Union Stockyards in Omaha. The stockyards was second fiddle to Chicago no more. That year it became the world's largest livestock market.
  • A political ad heralded Eisenhower's 9-point farm program plan. No. 1 on his list—"a voluntary 2-point soil bank to take 40 to 45 million acres out of production to lessen the gain surplus and raise prices."
  • An October issue feature story served as an example of how things never seem change—it warned of the dangers around corn harvesting equipment at harvest time.
  • A panel of Nebraska farmers, in a spring issue of 1956, detailed how they raised 150-bushel corn.
  • USDA announced that spring that the minimum price support rates for 1956-crop corn "will be based on $1.40 per bushel, which is 81% of the Jan. 18 corn parity price."
  • A family near Silver Creek told how it avoided stressed corn on sandy loam soils by developing open-ditch irrigation. The headline: "No More 'Poverty' on Poverty Ridge."
  • A fall issue carried a feature on school redistricting. A concern then and now.

Oops. I need to get back to work. This is what happens when I go to the office library.