Eric Cox, publisher of the “Knightstown Banner,” recently wrote essays about 4-H that set me to rummaging through the trunks in my mental attic where all of my experiences and snapshots of the past are stored.
4-H shaped my summers. In addition to developing some basic skills, we went on picnics at the Springs east of town and swam in the round pool at Riley Park in Greenfield. Some got to spend a couple of days at the Junior Leaders Purdue Round-up which I thought was a big deal. 4-H taught us to produce something to be proud of and to be responsible.
Miss Edythe Tipton, our Home Ec teacher, managed the 4-H Club that met at the school during the summer. Projects included baking, food preparation, home decorating and sewing. We recorded what we baked in a pamphlet — so many butter cakes, coffee cakes, angel food cakes, cookies, Swedish tea rings etc. We were given recipe booklets that included a delicious, easy-to-make coffee cake which I shall try to find and make.
Dear Miss Tipton taught her entire career at Knightstown. She was also my Jones nieces’ Home Ec teacher. She was ever so ladylike. She would stand with her arms held out bent in front of her and genteelly flap her hands up and down to emphasize a point. In Junior High Home Ec which we were required to take, we learned sewing on treadle machines and cookery in the kitchen that adjoined the classroom.
I suspect that there were many times that she would have liked to yell at me, but she was too ladylike. We graduated from making place mats and aprons to dresses. “Rose Mary,” she said as she flapped her hands. “Why ever did you choose plaid? It’s very hard to match.” Well, I fooled her and matched it perfectly. I got the skirt and bodice attached. Oh, it was grand to succeed.
Every day Miss Tipton examined our work. I was nearly done when disaster struck. “Oh, Rose Mary,” she wailed—flap . . . flap . . . flap . . . Somehow, I had cut a triangular hole in the skirt. “How ever did you do this?” “Dunno,” I replied.
We were supposed to memorize the recipe for baking powder biscuits. The recipe was on the blackboard in the kitchen, but we were forbidden to look at it during a test. She caught me peeking. Flap . . . flap . . . flap . . . Since I couldn’t remember the ingredients, my biscuits were so hard that when one of them fell on the floor, it bounced and rolled across the kitchen.
We also made Floating Island which is a pudding of custard cooked with egg yolks into which stiffly beaten egg whites are folded. I have detested it till this day. We were required to sample each other’s results, and the egg whites in some were nauseatingly runny.
At the end of summer, the 4-H members prepared things for judging. The winning entries were sent to the State Fair. One year I was proud when I won first place for cookies filled with a yummy concoction of dates and peanut butter. Hmm . . . Bill just bought some dates. Perhaps I’ll try to replicate them.
One year a ten-year-old girl showed up for judging with a lovely salad composed of cottage cheese with a pinwheel of sliced peaches carefully arranged on top. “My! This looks scrumptious!” exclaimed Betty Williams who taught Home Ec at another school. I can still see it all in my mind’s eye: She took a large bite. Her face turned bright red, and she swigged down the glass of water intended to cleanse the palate between tastes. Instead of peaches, the girl had used banana peppers! After recovering her voice, Mrs. Williams gently explained that perhaps she should use peaches next time.
Those were good times and kind, caring adults. firstname.lastname@example.org
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