A Corn Crib in Illinois (7/19/2019)

For the past month or so the Friday Footnote has focused on FFA and World War II. We have at least three more Footnotes on that topic to publish, but I have decided to deviate from the publishing schedule and “Rise to a Point of Personal Privilege” and share a recent personal story that you might find to be of interest. It is about the FFA Officer Stations.

It is interesting to look at the evolution of FFA Officer stations. A perusal of the current FFA catalog shows the following two sets of officer stations.

Previously there was a high tech or mod version of the officer stations. I didn’t like them.

Back when I was teaching in the high school classroom the FFA officer stations used by my FFA chapter looked like these (except the owl had light-up eyes when plugged in).

About 20 years ago a FFA Historical Display was installed at the state FFA Camp in White Lake, North Carolina. I was responsible for planning and installing the display. Many individuals and FFA Chapters donated historical artifacts. I also donated numerous FFA artifacts from my personal collection. See photo below (the display does extend further to the left).

One of the most unique set of items on display was a plaster of paris set of FFA Officer stations that the Mt. Pleasant (NC) FFA chapter donated. On the bottom of the officer stations, written in pencil, was the date “1930s.” There was no station marker for the Vice President because John Deere gave silver plows to the FFA (and NFA) and there was no Sentinel station marker because that FFA officer did not exist in the 1930s. So based on the penciled date, I knew they predated the FFA Supply Service because the Supply Service came into being in 1948. As I worked on the display I wondered where did these officer stations come from? What is their history?

Over the years I picked up various clues as to the possible origin of the station markers. My hypothesis was that they came from the Chapter Supply Company in Danville, Illinois – but this was just an educated guess.  That company sold FFA supplies from the 1930s through the 1950s. The owner of the company also published the American Farm Youth magazine.

During the past year, I was able to locate a relative of the owner of the Chapter Supply Company and inquired if the Chapter Supply Company produced plaster of paris FFA officer stations. The response was “Yes”. And furthermore, this relative believed there might be some of the old station markers stored in a corn crib on a farm in Illinois. I decided a road trip was in order.

On Monday of this week, I was privileged to speak about Putting CULTURE into AgriCULTURE: The Influence of the Traveling Chautauqua on Farmers to the Fountain Park Chautauqua in Remington, Indiana. On Tuesday Dr. Travis Park (who was at the Chautauqua) and I made a road trip to a farm someplace in Illinois and explored the corn crib on that farm.

So, what did we find? There were some plaster of paris officer stations that matched the ones on display at the North Carolina FFA Camp. This finding verified my hypothesis about the origin of the station markers. There were approximately 70 ears of corn (secretary’s station), five busts of George Washington (treasurer’s station), and two flag stands (reporter’s station). What was surprising was the 30+ busts of Thomas Jefferson. While he was not officially represented at an FFA officer station, he was revered in the early days of the FFA as evidenced by the FFA pilgrimage to Monticello in 1933 (see the Friday Footnote for 4/12/2019).

What was surprising was the discovery of 30+ secretary station markers for the New Farmers of America (NFA) – a boll of cotton on a base.  See photo below. We also found one bust of Booker T. Washington. The NFA treasurer was stationed at the bust of Booker T. Washington. I had never heard about or seen these NFA station markers.

What was disappointing was there were no president officer station or owls for the advisor station. The relative thought there might be some owls in another location on the farm. At least the profession does have one FFA president station marker and one advisor station marker at the NC FFA camp.

The officer station markers were in decent shape for being stored in a corn crib for 50+ years. However, the hot, humid summer weather and freezing temperatures in winter in Illinois are having their toll. The paint has faded and there is damage to a number of the items. They really need to be relocated.

What next? The relative might be willing to donate a number of the station markers to the profession. However, this relative wants to confer with another relative to get the OK to do so. These items have no real monetary value but are of historical significance to the agricultural education profession and would be tangible evidence of the existence of the Chapter Supply Company. Currently, they are of no value to anyone stored in a corn crib in Illinois where no one can see them. Dr. Park and I have agreed to distribute these historical FFA and NFA officer stations to agricultural education teachers and state-level leadership across the country if they are donated to the profession.