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The Grange – Then and Now

Sawyer Hall - Heath

Sawyer Hall is our Heath Post Office, Police Office, and Town Library with Town Offices for  the Selectbord, Administrator, Tax Collector, Assessors, etc. upstairs, but  for for many years a good portion of Sawyer Hall was used by the Grange for suppers, and even for dramatic productions.  I remember when we moved here in 1979 the Library was closed because the building was being renovated.  Someone gave me a tour of the large open upstairs where a small raised platform acted as a stage was set in  the ‘bay windows,’  and a Glenbrook wood burning parlor stove was placed on another wall.

I could picture Grange suppers serving all kinds of wonderful home grown and home cooked meals, but I couldn’t imagine what kind of plays were were put on UNTIL one of Heath’s Great Ladies gave me a box of plays and books of recitations.  The plays were mimeographed  and  given a green paper cover. One marked Very Good is Holloway’s Hired Hand – a play in one act by Earlene Day Benson of Groton, NY. It won First Prize in the New York State Plays Project in 1952 and was distributed for .35 a copy through the American Agriculturist Magazine.

As a community event the Friends of Library once put on a reading of this play which got a lot of laughs.  Harry Holloway is a farmer whose hired hand has just quit, Laura is his wife, Jim is the ex-hired hand and Jerry is the new hired hand. Lovesickness is the cause of the hired hand’s leaving, but before the  curtain falls the new hand Jerry, is revealed to be none other than a ‘college girl’ and the object of Jim’s affections who wanted experience on a farm. It all ends happily, of course, because the point of these plays was to encourage farmers.

The Grange was disbanded in Heath as in so many rural towns because the number of farms dwindled so. But out in Corvallis, Oregon, as perhaps in other places, the Grange is enjoying a resurgence as new young farmers meet over delicious Grange dinners for advice,  information and encouragement from the old timers.  How do I know this? I read all about it in the New York Times yesterday,  New Food Culture A Young Generation of Farmers Emerges.  A new generation of enthusiastic foodies can take credit for helping revive The Grange.

6 comments to The Grange – Then and Now

  • Nice to meet a fellow blogger who enjoys the Sunday Times. It’s a tradition around this household, too. I was very heartened by that article… 🙂

  • I bought our land in Heath in 1974. I remember how open the downstairs was in the town hall. I also remember the library being temporarily housed in a garage near Ned Wolfe’s place.

    The plays sound like they were a hoot. Wish I could have seen them. Life was simple during those times.

  • Pat

    Kate – I’m always checking the Sunday NYT for blog fodder.
    Bill – I never used the Library when it was housed in the Wolfe’s garage – an important part Library history. The plays will end up with the Historical Society eventually – perhaps when the Library has a new home with room for a Local History Room.

  • Hi Pat!

    This topic (young farmers) has be “cropping up” everywhere! It’s very encouraging!

    Yes! Magazine: New Crop of Farmers
    http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/food-for-everyone/new-crop-of-farmers

    …Valley Breeze (RI): Meet the new face of farming
    http://breezepapers.com/2011/02/23/observer/meet-the-new-face-of-farming?sms_ss=email&at_xt=4d6be8f1edb166e4%2C0

  • Pat

    Kerrie – Thank you for those great links. I am so happy that we have a good new crop of young farmers in our area. Veggies, fruit, meat and milk!

  • Pat,
    It is indeed encouraging! The first I saw of this trend (articles about young farmers) was in the Recorder back in January. My little family is just trying to grow enough for us, maybe for our extended families & neighbors. I’d love to start a community garden up here in Heath, or even a community potluck series with the bounty from everyone’s personal gardens!

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