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1931 State Corn Picking Contest
Milford Twp Hosts Contest

The Milford School Athletic Association had a great opportunity dumped in their lap to raise funds in Nov of 1931 when the Iowa Corn Pickers Association held their state contest at the County Farm in south Milford Twp and the Athletic Association was granted permission to have a refreshment stand at this event. The proceeds went into the Athletic fund. No record was found stating how much was made in this effort. The other four organizations that were permitted to serve refreshments were the Story County 4-H Clubs, Ames American Legion, Nevada Methodist Church and the Christian Church of Nevada.

Not in Milford Twp but a good example of a labor intensive operation of the time before about 1950.

The event was held on Friday, the sixth of November of 1931 at 10 AM and, as something really new, WOI radio of Iowa State College of Ames was at the event with their shortwave equipment and broadcast the event to Ames where it was changed to the regular AM frequency for distribution over their facility. This was the first time a corn picking contest had been broadcast by radio. They would be on the air from 9:30 until 11:30 but the results of the harvesting would not be available until 2:00- 2:30.

The Story County contest had been held on Tuesday, the 3rd of November, at the Anderson farm just southeast of Nevada. Jack Viers of Maxwell won the event but was disqualified because he was, in reality, a resident of Polk County; so, Frank Thornton of Nevada represented Story County at the State Contest. There was an estimated crowd of over 600 at this event. No record of any Milford participants in this contest was found.

One “expert” estimated the crowd at the state contest to be about 10,000 but others disputed that claim, but, never-the-less, there was a sizable crowd. The audience listening over the radio was estimated in the hundreds of thousands? The Ames High School band was present during the morning hours and furnished music to entertain the crowd and also for the parade of the wagons and contestants to the field. During the afternoon hours the Nevada High School Band and the Story County Band were on the field and with the crowd after it had accumulated around the buildings as the weighing was under way.

A good sized crowd had gathered when this photo was taken at the Iowa Corn Husking Championship held at the Story County Home Farm. The view is to the west northwest.

After a rather complicated set of deductions was applied, the remaining corn was calculated to show the winners as well as those who did not win. (Three pounds of grain deducted for every pound of corn missed, and, in a very complicated formula, the deduction for husks was even more severe.) The contestants had to average between forty to fifty picked ears per minute to “be in the game”.

This was the first time a state corn picking contest had ever been held in Story County.

Lee Carey of Laurens in Marshall County won and in the process defeated the previous year's champion, Clyde Tague. Our Story County man, Frank Thornton, finished 14th in the field of 18. Lee Carey and E.H. Hendricks, as second place winner, went on to represent Iowa in the National Contest in Grundy Center on the 13th of Nov.

In a special feature at the State Contest, a ladies 30 minute contest was staged. No record could be found pertaining to the selection process for the seven ladies that entered the contest. Mrs Lloyd Halverson of Radcliffe won this event. The only unmarried contestant, Miss Flora Grimius of Grundy Center, finished a not too close second. Mrs Halverson's 30 minute effort compared favorably with those of Carey's 80 minute effort. No kinship relationship was found between Milford's Supt Halverson `35-'46 and Mrs Lloyd Halverson.

Left: A mighty important implement in the corn harvest effort is shown left- the harvesting peg. This is but one of several basic types with many variations of each. Another type, unshown, is the husking `hook' with multiple variations of placement and number. A champion might be able, for the 80 minutes of the contest, to average 50 ears per minute but a more realistic figure would be 40 with most of the corn harvested at a lessor rate. A competitive harvester was actually a superb athlete.

Ol' Milford Farmer wonder: Conclusion occur when people get tired of thinking.

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© 2012 Mark Christian
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