With a hungry nation at war against Germany in spring 1917, the Arkansas Gazette encouraged gardening. And people gardened.
But not simply because one Little Rock newspaper said to. Many entities and agencies heard the call from Assistant U.S. Agriculture Secretary Carl Vrooman for more planting of food crops.
His “war gardens” didn’t acquire the nickname remembered today — victory gardens — until World War II, but the concept was full blown in 1917. Families should grow their own so the commercial food supply could be diverted to troops and starving allies.
Among patriotic efforts, the Cotton Belt, Iron Mountain and Rock Island railroads offered unused land along their rights-ofway to gardeners, free of charge. Iron Mountain even had its own agriculturist, one Clyde O. Carpenter, son of Perrian P. Carpenter of Little Rock. “C.O.” only rarely appeared in print as “Clyde O.,” which suggests he had a friend inside the press.
On March 23, 1917, the Gazette added a gardening advice column written by Carpenter, who also was — inhale — “agricultural commissioner of the Arkansas Profitable Farming Bureau of the Little Rock Board of Commerce.” Fred Heiskell, managing editor of the Gazette, also belonged to the profitable bureau, and the newspaper covered its doings like white on rice. Carpenter’s first advice?
Home gardeners should not be discouraged because of the recent rainy and unfavorable weather. There still is time to plant and raise all the vegetables that have been mentioned in the bulletins issued by the Board of Commerce except early peas. However, there are some late varieties of peas that may be planted. “Iron Mountain” was the nickname of the debt-ridden St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, which in May 1917 completed its merger with the no-longer bankrupt Missouri Pacific Railroad. Also in May, Carpenter left to lead the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce. He had been Iron Mountain’s farm man for six years.
Announcing his loss to Little Rock on May 13, the Gazette published an interview with a photograph. Readers saw a clean-shaven, fair-haired 30-yearold with an altar-boy sort of face and round wire glasses.
Just a year later, Carpenter left the Chamber to manage a big
cotton and ranching concern owned by Mann Land & Investment Co. on the Red River. And it wasn’t long after that he landed another new job, as farm agent for the Bank of Jonesboro.
The Gazette continued to find in him a highly quotable source on Profitable Farming Bureau affairs through early 1920, when he was hired away from Jonesboro by the Fourth National Bank of Macon, Ga.
Two other bureau stalwarts soon cut a pigeon wing (left rapidly) for that bank, and for a while afterward the Gazette took a keen interest in the wondrous advances in farm practice being made in Macon.
Besides earnest gardening advice, humor cropped up here and there, such as this from April 15, 1917:
Fervid Request for “Dope” on Home Gardens
Grown desperate by facing the rising cost of “sowbelly” et al., T.H. Hale, 3516 West Tenth street, Little Rock, Ark., sent the following appeal to the Profitable Farming Bureau of the Board of Commerce for instructions on raising a home garden.
“Enclosed find stamp, for which please send to my address … the bulletin on ‘The Home Garden in the South.’
“Sowbelly at 40 cents per, chops (mostly bones) at 25 cents and all necessaries competing with the zeppelins in soaring ability, is sufficient inducement for one to try to raise something, even though it be nothing but hell, for that is about as good a term as I can think of when I break my back trying to reach the bottom of a bed of slate through the medium of a pick in an effort to persuade a radish to look at the rising sun — to say nothing about the neighbors’ chickens adding to the torments in successful efforts to resurrect the
radish, thereby adding fuel to the already hot flames.”
Here’s a different horticultural hell, from April 18:
Pigeons Ruin Gardens
Fred Parrett, 2318 West Seventh street, who is growing, or attempting to grow, a home garden, complained to the police yesterday that his chickenwire fence was ineffective for pigeons, which fly into his garden all day long to feast on the seed he plants.
That was followed by this, May 9:
May Shoot at Pigeons that Harm Gardens
Special to the Gazette. Pine Bluff, May 8. — Following the passage of an ordinance which makes it illegal for owners of chickens to let fowls run at large in the the city, the City Council has announced that home gardeners will be permitted to use their shotguns in defense of their gardens against pigeons, which are said to be doing considerable damage.
We must not imagine that pigeons were universally reviled.
Advertisements convey the going rate for Purina pigeon feed was $4.75 for 100 pounds; and small businesses had pigeons for sale in the classifieds. Gummer Squab Plant at 1217 College St. in Little Rock had “homer pigeons, $1.50 per pair; Carneaux pigeons, $3 per pair, also squabs.”
On June 4, rail agent W.G. Hopkins played a key role in a St. Louis pigeon race by releasing a shipment of 36 pigeons promptly at 11 a.m. at Beebe.
And this item landed in the Oct. 14 Gazette:
Pigeon in Long Flight
Members of the various Concourse Associations here — men devoted to the breeding and flying of homing pigeons — are much interested in the recent long distance flight undertaken by a dozen of the best birds belonging to members of the Pittsburgh association. The birds were taken to Denver, Colo., and there released for a flight to the home lofts, a distance of approximately 1,500 miles.
Fritz, a pigeon which has made a number of long distance flights for his owner, Dr. O.J. Bennett, won the race by making the trip in 11 days and five hours, after making a long detour to the north to escape the torrid heat across the Mississippi valley, as did all the birds, shortly after their release at Denver. The flight is supposed to be a record for the route, though the 1,500 miles has been covered by old birds in fewer hours, when flying from the South to the North on clear days in midsummer.
Only seven birds arrived, the last after 21 days and three hours.
“Pigeon handlers” were among the skilled recruits sought for the Army when Maj. Walton D. Hood, commander of the 312th Signal Battalion at Little Rock, announced in December 1917 that he had 200 openings.
So there were pigeon fanciers and pigeon haters, and both may have cited the war to back up their opinions. Might have … but I haven’t found evidence in the archives that anyone did.