By George Henry, Historian
What is the "Grange" you ask? The readers born after 1960 may not know how important the Grange was during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
The Grange Patrons of Husbandry was founded in 1867 as a fraternal organization to promote the economic health of the farm community. This included buying supplies, marketing produce and lobbying for education and research programs. From the Grange sprang the Cooperative Extension Service, Farm Credit Service, Rural Mail Delivery and, in our area, the Grange League Federation aka GLF and later as Agway.
The Reed's Corners Grange was founded in 1875. The meetings were held in homes, the Baptist Church and the old hotel. In 1914 they purchased Tozer's wagon shop which was remodeled to include a kitchen. Membership topped in 1936 at 231. The Grange was the center of social activities with round and square dancing almost every week during the fall and winter months. It was where many organizations held their dinner meetings. At that time every farm community had a Grange Hall.
It is the Grange dinners that is the focus of this article. But first some background into the social and economic conditions of the period from 1936 to mid 1960. The folks then had survived the great depression and WW2. They were frugal people and money in general was tight. There were not many eating establishments with large banquet rooms. In 1942 there was the Canangaigua Hotel and the Webster Hotel with accomadations sufficent to handle a large group. Today there are five places that can handle a large group. IN 1942 Mom was home taking care of the house and preparing meals. They sure were not going to spend $5.00 at a resturant when they could have a good home cooked meal. Today with two income families, and the perception of money much different, it is easier to just go out for dinner. The Grange kitchen and dinning room was multipurpose.It was a place for the church, grange and other organizations to hold their dinner meetings and a source of income for the grange.
There is no record of how many dinners the Grange put on during the period between 1938 and 1968. However, Mae Henry was in charge of 79 dinners. In two notebooks she recorded the menues of thoes dinners. The organizations included the Odd Fellows, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Church, International Harvester, Republican Committee, School, Girl Scouts, Grange, an insurance company,father and son banquets and dinners put on for the general public with the purpose of generating income for the Grange. On some of the menus is recorded the income, cost and profit of that dinner.
It must be noted that the work, time and effort to put these dinners on was all volunteer by the ladies of the grange. Even some of the food like pies, cakes and bread was baked by these folks and donated. There is one page in the note books that records the folks who donated. As follows: Beulah-2 large containers jello, Mary-2 gal milk 2 lemon pies, Helen Otis-one bu. potatoes, Ethel -one lb butter, Ethel Pulver- steamed b bread, Lillian- 2 pies, Adelaide 2 glasses jelly, Elizabeth- 2 pies and on and on for 16 more ladies
These were not small dinners, on some is recorded the number served. The smallest was 49, the largest was 325. The average of the recorded numbers was 105. Some were served family style, with heaping platters of food put on the tables. Others served cafeteria style, this was mostly for the 2 cent, 3 cent and 5 cent suppers. I should explain what a 2 cent supper was. A serving of potatoes was 2 cents, vegetables 2 cents, meat 2 cents, bread same, coffee same through the rest of the menu. The dinners put on for the general public were very popular with folks coming from all over even coming from Canangaigua. And why not, with some of the best cooks preparing the food and real home made pies, cake and bread. The price sure was right as you will see later in this article.
The mornings of the dinner must have been something to watch, and the organization would have made a General proud. The ladies would gather peel and prepare the potatoes, prepare the meats for cooking, make salads, cut vegetables, set the tables and all the other tasks that go into serving 300 people. When dinner time came the daughters and some of the men would help serve the food, pour coffee and make sure the platters were full of food. Ah yes, then dinner is over and the work of cleaning up and washing the dishes still had to be done. Now this made for a long day and some very tired folks.
This is an example of a 5 cent supper.
Ham 75 lb.
Scalloped potatoes 1 bu.
Beets 1 pk.
Carrots 1 pk.
Turnips 1 pk.
large kettle of squash
Cold slaw large cooker of sliced cabbage
Baked beans 3 large dishes
Brown bread 8 loaves
Buttered rolls 24 doz.
Cottage cheese 4 furnished
Pickles 4 furnishes
Served over 233. Took in $120 and cleared $85.23
This means that the folks ate for $.51 per person. No wonder they were popular.
Try doing this one today. Served 150.
1 and 1/2 gal. oysters raw.
5 and 1/2 gal. oysters scalloped
Scalloped potatoes 7 pans
Cabbage salad 11 dishes
Rolls 15 doz.
Butter 3 lbs.
Pickles 1 and 1/2 gal.
Coffee 6 lbs. used 4
Cream 6 qts
One more example of a 5 cent supper served over 300.
Beef 75 lbs
Potatoes mashed 1 1/2 bu.
Beans 4 dishes
Jello 4 1 qt. dishes
Milk 2 gal.
Butter 5 lbs.
Coffee 7 lbs.
Cabbage 20 lbs.
B Bread 4 -2 loaves each ( I thinks this means that 4 people made 2= loaves)
Pies 12-2 each ( same with the pies)
Cake 5 (not enough)
Took in $145.00 Cleared $ 91.00.
This means the folks had a meal for $.48. What a deal.
For anyone interested the original diaries are on file at the Ontario County Museum and digitalized copies are at the Gorham Museum.