(Continued from 1945 Banister Daily Diary Part 1: Floyd and Lala)
When Gerald Banister is mentioned in the 1945 diary, he is typically doing something to help the family, whether it be giving rides, helping with chores, helping neighbors, or supporting his family during hard times. Like his father, Gerald also worked at Hayes Industries. One gets the impression that Gerald was dependable and helpful and that his parents relied on him very much. He was the elder brother by 10 years, but Gerald and Jim spent time together and worked together regularly.
The following diary entries illustrate Gerald’s role as a support to his parents and brother. (edited for consistent punctuation)
January 15: Gerald and I (Lala) had supper with Aunt Dora.
January 24: Gerald took boys to scout meeting.
February 14: Gerald and Jim went to a donkey basketball game in E. Rapids in evening.
March 4: Gerald, Jim and I (Floyd) cut two logs.
March 29: Gerald & I (Floyd) took Jim to a show at Eaton Rapids. (This was on Jim’s 16th birthday.)
July 5: Gerald and I (Lala) went to funeral. (for Lala’s Aunt Ruby)
July 28: Gerald and Jim fixed the roof on Aunt Dora’s house.
August 12: Gerald took Jim & Tom out to spend a week with Ann & Densel.
August 13: Floyd & Gerald put a new chain on tractor for Charlie.
September 15: Gerald & Lala took the electric stove to Jackson to be fixed.
My favorite entry regarding Gerald occurred on July 22. Floyd wrote, “Gerald brought a pig home, it choed (sic) out of bag and was sitting in trunk, got out & ran away.” What a funny sight that must have been!
Although James Banister was his legal name, James went by his nickname, Jim, throughout his life. Even Floyd calls his son “James” only once in the 1945 diary, otherwise it is always Jim or just J for short.
Jim was in high school in 1945, actively engaged in after school activities, and had already developed many skills to help on the farm and at home. Floyd does not mention whether Jim enjoyed this work, but he was certainly very handy.
He did his father’s farm chores when needed and helped plow for his Uncle Charles. He put the cattle/calves in the barn, drew corn, dragged the garden, and helped put siding on the house. He sprayed, dug, and hoed the potatoes, helped combine, cleaned the wallpaper, cut wood, and fixed his great-aunt’s roof.
The entry for October 14 made me a bit squeamish but I was impressed that Jim had nerve and know how to take care of the problem. “4-30 this morning an opossum got in our little chickens. Jim killed it.”
Like his parents, Jim found a variety of ways to make extra money. He sold 6 roosters and sold a calf for $18. He helped Mr. Harshey in the bean fields with Floyd. That year, Jim took stock to the Jackson County Fair and earned his first fair prize money of $8.40.
Jim kept busy outside the home, too. He spent time with friends and was a member of the boy scouts, attending meetings and activities throughout the year. He was also a member of the FFA and in April he was elected to serve as the next vice president of the group.
Jim enjoyed hunting and the outdoors. In 1945, Floyd recorded that Jim went duck and pheasant hunting. He also went rabbit hunting with Floyd, and with his mother’s cousins Wayne and Emory. Jim also went fishing during the day and spearing at night. Lala noted that although Jim speared some dog fish, he didn’t bring any home.
In September, three entries in the diary mention Jim working on a boat. He painted it and “worked” on it, and finally, after a few weeks “Gerald, John Staples… & I (Floyd) helped Jim put his boat on lake.”
In December, Floyd wrote several entries regarding how he and Jim set 24 traps and then caught rats in the traps. Floyd meticulously kept track of how many rats Jim caught on which day. He even noted how many feet were caught. I admit to being very confused for several entries about why this would be important to Floyd. I also wondered just how many rats they had and how troublesome this would be. Were they being overrun by rats? Is that why they needed 24 traps? Imagine, then, my shock and surprise when a week after setting the traps, Jim managed to sell 6 rats for $12! Who in the world would want to buy rats? I just could not figure it out! I simply have no experience with rat trapping.
Thankfully, on the 8th entry about rat trapping, Floyd specified that these were muskrats! What a laugh I had when I read that. They weren’t catching rats, they were catching and selling muskrats during muskrat season! Of course! Now, this made a lot more sense!
I admit to being very relieved, as well, when I finally figured it out! My husband, on the other hand, knew exactly what was happening when he heard the story. He knows more about these things than I do, for sure.
Jim set a total of 24 traps. He paid $4.25 for a dozen traps and Floyd paid $5.25 for his dozen. The investment paid off; during muskrat season Jim caught and sold 16 muskrats for $31.90, making a tidy profit off the endeavor.
For myself, I learned a valuable lesson – don’t assume you understand what you are reading just because the words are familiar! Trapping rats is very different than trapping muskrats! This is a great example of how important it is to understand the context of what we are reading, and how our perception changes based on our understanding of even commonly used words and phrases. When in doubt – look it up!
(Continued in 1945 Banister Daily Diary Part 3: Senator Hooper’s Murder and the End of WWII)
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