I am lucky my grandparents were packrats. I’m fortunate they had the habit of hanging onto anything that might be of some use someday, no matter how distant that someday might be.      
     One item they didn’t discard was the house my great-grandfather, Charlie, built when he homesteaded our farm in 1887. When my Nelson grandparents built a new house in 1963, they had a dozer shove Charlie’s old house out into their grove – which is now my grove – figuring it may serve some future purpose. They were right.      
     I’ll tromp out to Charlie’s decaying old farmhouse every so often and rifle through the stuff left behind. Most of it is junk, but I’ll occasionally stumble across artifacts that seem like postcards from the past.      
     I’ve found a good number of such postcards from 1957. That year was historic in many ways: 1957 was the year Ford rolled out the Edsel and the TV shows Wagon Train and Perry Mason debuted. Sputnik was launched in October of ’57, three weeks before I was born.      
     Let’s put on our Indiana Jones archaeological fedora and dust off some of the things I’ve found from 1957.      
     Among the items that float to the top is a 1957 edition of Reader’s Digest. One characteristic of the magazine that quickly becomes apparent is the Mad Men mind-set of its content.
     An advertisement from the Ethyl Corporation (manufacturer of tetraethyl lead) encourages Americans to drive more, arguing that more miles equals cheaper miles. An advert for Bell Telephone reveals it cost $2 for a 3-minute call from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. – and that was at the evening and weekend rate.     
     The Reader’s Digest features an article titled “My Faith in the Atomic Future” by Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. Strauss enthused the future looked bright for atomic power, adding that novel uses might soon be found for “radioactive byproducts.” One such use, he said, might be to incorporate radioactive byproducts into fertilizer, which would enable farmers to track nutrient uptake.
     Crops that glow in the dark and make a Geiger counter buzz like an angry rattlesnake might sound cool, but I think I’ll pass.      
     The Cold War was at its coldest as was illustrated by an interview with Francisco Franco, the dictator of Spain. Franco stated, “For Russia, anything is a weapon.” In other words, not much has changed.      
     Another article titled “She Rode to Triumph Over Polio” is a grim reminder that Jonas Salk had just recently introduced his polio vaccine. Nowadays we worry about what? Our Wi-Fi connection dropping as we sip a $5 cup of coffee? Pretty lame compared to beating polio.      
    On the home front, the Reader’s Digest features an article called “Woman’s Finest Role.” A wife is quoted in the article as saying, “To be a successful wife is a career in itself.” No argument here.
     That “Leave It to Beaver” sentiment is echoed in a February 1957 Town Journal magazine. A Town Journal article titled “Five Ways to Help Your Husband Succeed” advises wives to “send him off to work free of home worries,” “greet him when he comes home with warmth and sincerity” and to “never belittle him – in public or private.” To summarize: always be sweet as pie and greet Hubby at the door with a warm kiss and a cold beer. I’m married, so I have no comment regarding that advice.      
     Speaking of homes, an ad for Liberty Homes states that a ready-to-build house kit could be purchased for as little as $2,376. But we must bear in mind it was a mean life by today’s standards: no flat screen color TV, no microwave oven, no internet, no Kardashians. Hmmm... maybe it wasn’t all bad.     
     A 1957 edition of The Furrow magazine proclaims dwarf-type corn hybrids might be the wave of the future. Especially quaint is an ad featuring a John Deere 290 two-row corn planter.      
     An issue of my hometown newspaper, The Volga Tribune, published in May 1957, states that 160 acres of farmland in Brookings County could be purchased for as little as $16,000. This wouldn’t even come close to one year’s cash rent nowadays. At the grocery store, four boxes of Cracker Jack cost 25 cents, 50 pounds of flour could be had for $3.29 and a quart of dill pickles was 29 cents. Talk about your cheap date.      
     The year 1957 certainly treated me well. And while it might be a fun place to visit, I don’t think I’d want to live there anymore.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.