Family Reunions, Ice Cream Socials and Kids Activities in Rural Iowa During the 1940s

Reunions and community picnics were a big part of life in rural Iowa communities in the 1940s. In this segment of Iowa PBS’s "Picture Perfect: Iowa in the 1940s" documentary, Iowans describe community traditions in their small Iowa town.


Narrator: Reunions and community picnics were a big part of life in Ridgeway. Homemakers outdid themselves in preparation of the potluck offering nothing but their finest recipes, and homemade ice cream often was a highlight of social gatherings along the serene Turkey River.

Norma (Quill) Fisher, Ridgeway High School Alumna: I Love those pictures of the ice cream social by the river and the family photos. There were reunions and kids playing games. The Turkey River is a beautiful river, and its spring fed so it’s a nice, clean stream. It was always beautiful along there.

Narrator: It’s hard to imagine the youth of today enjoying life in Ridgeway around 1940. Yet even without the relentless stimulation of technology, the children in Everett’s photos seem happy. And from all appearances, they have a lot of fun.

Bob McQueen, Ridgeway High School Alumnus: I remember an old game we used to play in the evening. I can’t remember the rules, but it was Kick the Can. Remember how that went?

John Moe, Ridgeway High School Alumnus: Kick the Can, Run Sheep Run.

Bob McQueen, Ridgeway High School Alumnus: Don’t ask me how we played it. I don’t recall anymore. Those were things we could play in the evenings and without any parental concern. It wasn’t something that in smaller towns they might do, but in the cities, you wouldn’t consider that.

Clara (Gilbertson) Perry, Ridgeway High School Alumna: We would have some ice skating, and then in wintertime where there was a lot of snow, I can remember my brother-in-law bringing in his sled that had runners on. We would run to catch the sleigh and then stand on the runners and get a ride around town. We could always tell when he came into town because he had the horses and beautiful bells that were attached to it.

Carol Kuntz Swenson, Everett Kuntz’s Daughter: The Wheelbarrow race or, you know, they’re at the picnic and they’re sitting around the same blankets and the river no other toys, no other anything, and they’re all having a good time. It seems like nowadays kids are to use to being constantly entertained. It seems like in all the pictures, they were coming up with stuff to do. They were having fun. I don’t know, it was just a simpler time, I guess.


What is your Iowa pathway? Start your investigation by selecting a topic from the list above.

Media Artifacts

Navigation Tip:
Before digging in, check out how the page is organized. What are the main navigation buttons? What stays the same on every page?