This week: Spotlight on 'Corn-Farm Boy' 1950s kids' classic
Don’t forget: This Thursday, Barn Keepers’ Historian Bill Kemp leads an illustrated program on Corn-Farm Boy, a 1954 work of children’s literature written by celebrated author Lois Lenski.
llinois State University’s Special Collections at Milner Library holds Lenski’s research papers relating to the title. Kemp’s presentation will make use of that treasure trove—photographs, letters, notes, original illustrations, and newspaper clips.
Corn Farm Boy, aimed at the middle-school audience (ages 8 to 12), is a work of fiction.
The story offers a strikingly detailed and realistic look at farming in the decade after World War II—a time when the Corn Belt was undergoing rapid change due to mechanization, school consolidation, and other forces.
It’s part of nearly 20 titles making up Lenski’s regional series. Besides Corn-Farm Boy, the series also includes the 1945 Newberry Award-winning Strawberry Girl. In all, Ohio-born Lenski published nearly 100 children’s and young adult titles.
Even if you don’t have an interest in children’s literature, this program promises to be a highly original and interesting program. looking at the post World War II era in rural America.
The Barn Keepers speakers’ program is free and open to the public. This May 12 event begins at 7 p.m., at Evergreen FS Building, 402 N. Hershey Road in Bloomington.
Coming Soon: Book to showcase this area's centennial barns
The Barn Keepers organization is excited to announce the upcoming publication of a full-color book celebrating many of the county’s 100-plus year-old barns.
The project is getting some attention — Bloomington newspaper, The Pantagraph recently interviewed Barn Keepers historian Bill Kemp, and published an article about our search for the historical structures.
This book project will complement the Barn Keepers ongoing Centennial Barn program, which in the past several years has officially recognized nearly 50 barns in the McLean County area.
Do you know anyone with a centennial barn? How cool would it be to showcase such a barn in this professionally designed book celebrating Central Illinois farm heritage?
Historic barn calendar featuring timeless photos goes digital
Take a trip back in time with Barn Keepers — to revisit our origins as the McLean County Barn Group.In 2004, The Barn Group published the “Pride of McLean County:” Barn Calendar.
While it may be 18 years old, the wonderful photos are, indeed, timeless. The calendar showcases historical Corn Belt barns, and additional information about their architecture. The cover photo, seen here, is a 1925 Chenoa Township barn, featuring glazed bricks, and roof dormers.
Jim Williams, the late Barn Keepers board member (see remembrance below) led this project. He was joined by several others on the calendar committee including Jean Cooper, Erma and Harlan Kahle, Carolyn Loeb, Carmen Schnitker, and Wally Yoder.
Download the calendar by clicking on this link:
(NOTE: Download times vary, based on Internet bandwidth.)
In Memoriam: Jim Williams
Barn Keepers board member Jim Williams passed away Sept. 30, 2021, at the age of 87. Jim was well-known, and well-liked by all who knew him. He was a dear friend and colleague of Barn Keepers, and he will be missed.
Born and raised on a farm in the southern Illinois community of Galatia, Jim settled in Bloomington — spending more than 40 years at Country Financial, with much of that time devoted to automobile, fire, and agriculture safety.
He helped establish the International Society for Agriculture Safety and Health (ISASH), and he worked with the University of Illinois Extension on AgrAbility, a project that, among other things, helps farmers with disabilities be able to continue to farm.
Long associated with Barn Keepers, Jim’s ties go all the way back to our beginnings. That was nearly 20 years ago, when he served on the steering committee of the McLean County Barn Group, this organization’s original name. In addition, he served as chairperson of the Barn Group’s 2004 calendar committee.
With his innumerable connections, Jim was expert in securing advertisers for our annual Barn Tour, helping underwrite the cost of printing the booklets, and staging the event.
“He had a special gift for fund raising, and was a strong voice for barn-related issues and programs,” reflected Barn Keepers board member Ron Ropp.
Jim’s wife of 62 years, Madge Reid Williams, survives. Their children, daughter Lori Williams and son Brad Williams, also survive. Memorials can be made to ISASH, AgrAbility, or Eastview Christian Church.
Illustrated program focused on Centennial Barn book a big hit
The Barn Keepers September 9 public meeting at the FS Evergreen Building in Bloomington was a great success! We were thrilled with the nice turnout for our illustrated talk on the Centennial Barn book project.
Speakers included board members Ron Ropp and Bill Kemp, and Illinois State University intern Emma Pfeiffer, an undergraduate history major who is assisting Barn Keepers with the book project.
Dave Ashbrook memorial gift supports preserving Davis barn
Following the August 9, 2020, passing of our friend Dave Ashbrook, a substantial memorial gift to Barn Keepers was made in his name. After consulting with family members, it was agreed the Dave Ashbrook Memorial gift will go to the David Davis Mansion Foundation of Bloomington.
The State Historic Site grounds include a circa 1856 stable/barn, and the Ashbrook gift will go to the upkeep and preservation of this historic barn. The Bloomington Preservation Commission recognized the Davis Mansion Foundation’s efforts to preserve this barn with a 2020 Heritage Award.
Need assistance restoring a barn? This group offers ideas
Here at Barn Keepers, we get asked this vital question all the time.
Unfortunately, we’re a small not-for-profit that emphasizes barn education in McLean County. We simply do not have the technical or financical resources to support a grant program or similar efforts.
And there is precious little assistance when it comes to the government — be it federal, state or local levels. A federal tax credit is available for owners of barns which are on the National Register of Historic Places, but few barns are eligible for such designation.
That said, there is some help out there. The National Barn Alliance has some suggestions as to what to do and where to go. To visit that website, click here.