Johnny Carson’s 1988 interview with Merritt Heaton, Illinois’ oldest farmer, is a classic. It’s a perfect blend of humor and nostalgia.
Johnny Carson was a famous talk show host before Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman. In this episode, he interviewed Merritt Heaton. Heaton was 97 years old and from Toulon, Illinois. Carson asked Heaton about his fears of being on the show. Heaton’s honest and funny response made the audience laugh.
The talk turned to life on the farm. Heaton described the daily coffee shop gatherings where farmers discussed politics and farming. Heaton shared that his son, aged 78, now managed the farm. This fact amused the audience, showing the strong work ethic in Heaton’s family.
When asked about the biggest change in farming, Heaton mentioned electricity. Carson joked about the wheel being a big change too. Both men showed great humor. Heaton also spoke about his love life. He had been married for 64 years. He now had two lady friends, one in California and one in Illinois.
Heaton recalled the past. He talked about rural free delivery being new in his youth. He remembered learning of President McKinley’s assassination in 1901 through a newspaper.
The interview ended with Carson praising Heaton’s sharp mind and nice personality. Carson then introduced Heaton’s friend, Peggy Taylor, from California.
This interview was more than just fun. It was a piece of history. It showed the charm and wit of an older generation.