(The following was written by Marilyn Gibboney, and is reprinted from “Reflections II”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
In the good old days before the time of interspring and Beauty Rest mattresses, there were two choices to make the beds more comfortable over the bed slats or ropes. There were straw mattresses and corn husk mattresses. My maternal grandmother used both at her house.
My mother related the story to me that went like this: Grandma would make a large bag-like container of striped ticking she bought at the dry goods store. In the summer as soon as the wheat was threshed and still fresh in the straw sack, Grandma would take the girls, and with empty bags, would head for the straw pile. It was very important that no moisture was on the stalks. It was a job for a very hot day. After filling the bags they would pin them shut and carry them back into the house and place them on the beds. Each day to make up the bed, you had to reach your hand into the tick and fluff up the contents so that straw did not settle in one place. The feather beds were placed over the ticks.
The corn husk mattress took quite a long time to prepare. In September after the children had come home from school, Grandma would assign chores for each daughter. One thing they did not like was going out to the cornfield and pulling ears of corn from the corn stalks for the mattresses. This was done before the farmer or the hired man would cut the corn and put them into a fodder shock.
The girls would pull the ears from the stalks and put them into piles, then Grandpa would haul these into the barn. Next came the task of husking the corn, also a job for the girls. Both the ear of corn and the husks were saved. The ear corn was used as food for the livestock and the husks were put into gunny sacks (burlap bags). The husks were left in the sacks, (inside the barn) to completely dry. The next step was to take the old husk mattresses from the beds, empty them and air the ticks in the sunshine on clothesline. The next step was to take the ticks to the barn and sort out the best husks and fill the ticks. Only the best husks were used. Sometimes there would not be enough good ones to fill part of the ticks, so the straw ticks were especially needed. When these ticks were placed on the beds the same daily procedure had to be followed. They had to be fluffed up each day to keep the husks from bunching in a pile.
That was part of the many chores and duties performed by the housewife and those who lived in our Southwest Franklin County area.