Bill and Emily Brook Family Information

A History of Bill Brook and Emily Coleman Brook


HISTORY from Emily's writings


HISTORY from Michaelson's book


Life on the Farm

We lived in the small house on the Upton Road farm until Brian was born, then traded houses with Dad's parents. This move was very interesting. One day, Dad and Grandpa drove the wagon up to the front door and they announced, "Today is moving day"! They took things from our house to the big house, and when that was done, moved the grandparent's things to the small house. All in one day! Grandma and I were exchanging pictures, etc for weeks after that. It's not my idea of a good way to accomplish moving. We looked frantically for some of our possessions.

The big house we moved into, had 7 bedrooms on two floors. There were 15 doors that went outdoors, and many windows with small panes, and wavy old style blue tinged glass. One bedroom upstairs had a large round flowered medallion, from which a light cord hung. Probably this originally had a hanging kerosene or gas lamp. The house at one time was a road house, and had many Saturday night square dances. One woman of the area told me that she had met her husband during one of those parties. Around the outside of the house were three long covered porches.

The house was heated with a coal/wood furnace, which had to be fed wood during the day, and coal to keep the fire from going out during the night. In the morning the house was always cold until the furnace got going hot enough to give out some heat. Some days I would be busy baking, cooking or washing, and forgot the furnace, until the house got really cold--too late. The fire had to be nourished slowly until the wood caught and then slowly, the heat would start to circulate.

While we lived on Upton Road, we did some building of barns and remodeling of barns and the house. A big attraction was the pond which we built back of the houses. This was a center for many parties and picnics. Church picnics and parties centered there. We had plenty of room to play softball, badminton, as well as eat and swim. At Christmas time, we hosted the church caroling party in our home. Sometimes there were 50 people at our house following the caroling. They brought cookies, etc., and we furnished hot chocolate and coffee. The kids played all over the house, while the adults didn't lack for conversation. Usually by 12:30 or 1 a.m. the party would break up, for another year.

At Christmas, another of our traditions was to entertain foreign visitors who were studying at Universities in the states. Sponsored by Kellogg Foundation, these students were given a chance to visit a farm, and a city home to see how we actually lived. Sometimes we had as many as four students, but with the size home we had, there was plenty of space. One student from Turkey was to spend 3 days with us. At the end of the time, he told us that he had been dreading coming out to the country. He called his wife before coming and told her that he wasn't sure he could last that long. He said after he saw our home, he found that we didn't live any different than city folks--we had all the conveniences and appliances they have. During this time we hosted students from Japan, Bangladesh, England, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Vietnam, Thailand, Costa Rica, Nigeria (at a party, he taught us how to dance as they did at home. The coffee pot almost jiggled off the table), Taiwan and Switzerland were some of the other countries represented.

While the family was growing up, my work consisted of gardening, canning and freezing the excess vegetables and fruit, raising chickens, selling eggs and dressing chickens for sale, and for our own use. I also taught a Sunday School class for many years, enjoyed being a Cub Scout Leader, and was a 4-H leader for about 20 years. I was the go-fer (meaning that when a part or supply was needed on the farm, I was the one to go for it). This was quite a feat, loading 4-5 children into the car, unloading them while I got the supplies, then back into the car to the next stop. One day I drove over 100 miles, but was never more than 25 miles from home. I did the bookkeeping, banking, drove truck occasionally, and even fearfully drove one of our big diesel tractors (only to the house).

Besides cooking three meals a day, some of which were served in the field during planting and harvest time, I made most of the clothes that our family wore. Flannel shirts, pants, dresses, jackets, coats, and what ever else we wore (except underwear) were usually homemade. Two big freezers were filled to overflowing with our garden bounty, meat from our own home-raised animals, home made bread, cookies, and other goodies. Natalie said once that she was embarrassed when I went to Meijers shopping, because I filled two carts. I only shopped every two weeks.

One of the big events for the children (but not for mom) was taking the milk check to the bank. We used the Bank of Lansing, on the main corner in Lansing. They thought it great fun to go through those revolving doors into the bank. Of course, I usually had a stroller or a buggy, so I had to go in through a different door. The bank really echoed when one of the little ones decided to try out his or her voice. Much like a "silo singer".

Trips to the main library of Lansing were great fun for all. The children's librarian there was wonderful. She could find books that each child liked. We would come home with an armload of reading. There were not any libraries near our home.

As you children grew, so did the activities we followed. Cub Scouts, 4-H, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, choir, as well as sport events took time and travel. When Doug was in high school, he had a chance to go to the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, PA. Other of the children went to other places, church camp, Blue Lake Music camp (Lisa), Interlochen (Roger), Japan as an ambassador (Natalie), Church building tour of Europe (Brian). Gary participated as a member of the Lions All State band sponsored by Michigan Lion's clubs. He made a trip through the southern states, Arizona, Texas, and other states, putting on concerts along the way. Brian also participated in Suitcase Theatre of Lansing, which traveled through many states, putting on singing and drama programs.

Yes, our life on the farm was busy, but we have many fond memories of our years of farming, and wouldn't want to trade it for anything. The fun and togetherness of our family we'll always remember.

William Lyle Brook

After Brian was born, we quickly outgrew the 2 bedroom house, so my Mom and Dad decided it was time to change houses with them. (Besides the small house had automatic heat (oil) and the big house was heated with wood and coal--hand fired. One day, Dad and I drove a wagon up to the front door and started loading our furniture into it, and transferring it to the large house. Then my mom decided what furniture she wanted to move, and suddenly we were in a different home. For quite a few days, grandma and mom were exchanging pictures, etc. Of course, mom had trouble finding some of her things, because Dad and I just stuffed loose items into drawers anywhere we could find a space. All that space in a house bothered the small children. They were afraid there were robbers hiding in the living room and upstairs, but gradually they got used to having all that room.

While living in the Bath area, I was a Sunday School teacher, and active in various church offices as well as directing the church choir. I was a member of the Township appeal board, and became active in various farm organizations: Farm Bureau, Dairy Herd Improvement Association, MacDonald Dairy Board in Flint, National Milk Producers Association, and was a representative on the American Institute of Cooperation. I was a member of DRINC, (Dairy Research Incorporated), which was a dairy product research group. For two years I was president of the Michigan Agriculture Conference, which was made up of delegates from 37 Michigan farm organizations. This type of organization gave me a chance to meet many other farm leaders and also the governor of the state. During the time I served on these boards, mom and I went to conferences in many other states, California, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Lousiania, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, Virginia and other states. These conferences lasted about three days, giving us a chance to visit interesting sites in the area.

Also during this time, I was elected to the local Bath school board, where I served for 15 years. I was in on the planning of a new high school, now the middle school (or Junior High school).

When I started farming with my father in 1952, our cows were milked in stanchions, and the milk was carried to a milk house, where 10 gallon cans were filled and set into cold well water to cool. This involved a lot of stooping, squatting, lifting and leg work. In 1955, we built a new freestall barn and a connecting milk house, with a milk room with a steel pipeline which carried the milk into a large holding tank for keeping the milk cold. I helped with the building, laying blocks, etc. We had a new area for the cows who were milking. They stood on a raised platform, and we who milked them were below their level. We had an openhouse when we finished this facility. Many persons came, because this type of milk parlor was quite new.


With lots of brain and lots of brawn
Working in the dark and dawn
The new milking parlor is finally completed 
The old milk cans have been deleted.

But here in state one old milk can does lie
The symbol of an era gone by
No more shall it's musical clang be heard.

No more icy baths will it be taking.
It will go with the rest, which we're forsaking
For the new fangled tank (quite an invention).
To save our backs is our intention.

So farewell old milk can, so dented and rusty,
We'll all say "so long" with cheers that are lusty.
Emily Brook

After milking, you older children had to come to the milk parlor and help scrape the holding pen. At this time, we also built two large upright silos and a feeding floor with cement bunker feeders. Feed was augured from the silo into the bunkers. All of this area was scraped with a scraper fastened to a tractor. In the spring we had the smelly job of cleaning out the free stall barn. Bedding built up during the winter, and had to be hauled to the fields. One of our neighbors said, jokingly, "If the smell would help my yard, my grass would certainly be the nicest in the neighborhood. Yes, the smell was really terrible. You boys had a contest to see who could climb to the top of the 80 foot silo first! My only rule was that when you felt scared or dizzy, you must come down and try again later. Finally you made it to the top. Informing mom that the view up there was spectacular, she said that she would be happy if we took the camera up and brought down some pictures--she wasn't about to climb up there!

The big old barn was remodeled to a calf raising area. There was still a large main floor, where we stored chopped hay for winter. We installed a 7 1/2 horsepower fan, with an air duct that forced air through the hay and finished drying it, so it wouldn't overheat and cause a fire. This fan could be heard by all the neighbors. It was loud, but after a few days it just seemed like part of the area. After about a month, the hay was dry enough to turn off the fan. Quiet prevailed. After living in this big house for a while, we decided that there should be some improvements. First was a oil forced air furnace, which was great for keeping us warm. There was even a register in the bathroom downstairs, so we didn't have ice buildups in the bathtub. BRRR! We insulated the whole house, built a screen porch on the west side, and painted the whole outside, as well as updating the wiring--a 200 amp service assured that we could turn on a light as well as make toast in the morning without blowing the main fuses. We also remodeled the upstairs, adding a second bath, and making the rooms so no-one had to walk through another bedroom to reach their own. Closets, which were almost non existent, were added to some of the rooms. We felt that this was a great place to raise a family, especially after adding the 1 1/4 acre pond, stocked with fish. This area served as a party-picnic place, where we entertained church groups, and family groups for swimming, softball, volley ball and games. We spent many wonderful times there with our family for picnics.

By the 1970's, there were rumors that I-69 would be going through our farm, taking out some of the crop land. By then Doug and Marsha were a part of the family partnership along with Grandpa, Grandma, mom and myself. We decided that we would have to relocate in order to have enough income to keep three families going. So, the search began for a new farm. We traveled over many parts of Michigan looking for the "right" place. Finally we settled on the Ovid area. Things looked great--we thought. So we built a large barn, with the latest in milking equipment. No one could forsee that the interest rate on loans would skyrocket from 5.25% to about 17% or more. The interest almost killed our profits. Also the first summer we lived in Ovid, there was a severe shortage of rain. The wheat crop which came with the farm, shriveled and was worthless as a cash crop. Also there was a frost the end of June the next year, which killed our corn crop. After moving into the new milking facilities, we purchased some additional cattle, which carried the bacteria for IBR--an influenza that killed about 25% of the cattle, and cut our milk production almost to zero. The veterinarian visited almost daily. Yes, this move wasn't the best!! But we did survive. However, farming was never the same after those setbacks.


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