Mixing Memories and Research
When I started writing The Feedsack Dress, my own memories of farm life and the ninth grade guided the plot, but I needed facts about life in 1949. I looked for them in the same places I would have if I were writing an article.
At the library I wore out my eyes scrolling through microfilm copies of the Kirksville Daily Express and two great photo magazines, Life and Look. These answered such questions as the styles of dresses or skirts and blouses a fashionable ninth grader wore to school and how much they cost. Few girls wore jeans or slacks to school back then.
Copies of fair catalogs told me what exhibits 4-Hers would enter in hopes of winning prize money. As a 4-Her in the 1940s and 1950s, I knew that only country kids belonged to 4-H then.
Books and local and national newspapers told me about historical events. By the time I did my final draft, I used the Internet to find such riches as President Truman’s speeches, the history of feedsack dresses, and lists of popular songs, radio shows (almost no one had television), movies, and books.
The most enjoyable part of the initial research was talking to my mother and others who remembered 1949 well. They linked important events in their lives to that year. They, and I, recalled how a chicken bounded around after a well-aimed hatchet removed its head and the awful stench when you dunk the chicken into a bucket of hot water to make it easier to pull out the feathers.
Some things you’d rather forget.