by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Does anyone remember the Turkey Dinners put on by the Christian Church and the Methodist Church each year in December? They were not only an annual fundraiser for the women’s groups at both churches, but they were also a community social event.
I am guessing that many communities held similar event. Over the year’s I can recall Chili Suppers, Ham and Bean Dinners, Pancake Breakfast, and of course, the grandest meal, the annual Turkey Dinners. As I recall, the Christian Church held their dinner in November, just before Thanksgiving and the Methodist Church held their dinner on the first Saturday in December.
In addition to the meal, there was also the Christmas Bazaar. The ladies would prepare for weeks knitting hats and mittens, crocheting potholders and doilies, sewing fancy Christmas Aprons and assembling Christmas decorations; all to make extra money for their society.
Putting aside the money that was raised for each women’s group, they were BIG social events. The attendees dressed up. We are talking men in suits and ties and the ladies in their best dress, heels and hose! Even the youth who serve the beverages and extra rolls wore dresses and suits! Dinner was served in the fellowship hall, but the sanctuary was opened for visiting well past the meal.
About the meal, really never varies; roast turkey, homemade noodles in the early days, real stuffing made from cornbread and dried breadcrumbs, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, dinner rolls and, of course, homemade pies. When I was young, I remember people liked mincemeat and goose berry pies. Chess pie, made from squash, and raisin pie were also popular, along with pumpkin and pecan. What ever happened to chocolate meringue coconut cream?
I recall these events from my earliest memory, the early 1950s, until I was an adult. I particularly remember 1959. My mother was at home baking pumpkins pies on Friday night, December 9, when she got the phone call that our family hardware store was on fire. The store and the building next door (on the East side of Main Street, just north of the railroad tracks—it’s a parking lot now) burned to the ground that night.
In the latter years, the dinners had grown so large we moved the event to the Grain Valley Elementary School. This would have been in the early 1990s. I’m not exactly sure when the Methodist Church had their last Turkey Dinner. But I do remember, I got asked to cut and serve the homemade pies the last few years. THIS WAS A GREAT HONOR!
When I was young only my grandmother or Mrs. Snodgrass were allowed to cut the pies. You had to get them out of the pan and onto a plate looking good! By the time I was asked, I’d been teaching Home Economics for several years, but it took those years of practice to prove worthy of the task.
When you gather with family and friends this holiday season, I hope you will share your memories of the past. Whether in Grain Valley or elsewhere, I hope they put a smile on your face!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The aprons were made by my mother and sold at the Christmas Bazaar. These were three of the extras she made for us. They usually sold for $2 or $3, a high price in those days. I believe they may have sold the hand embroidered Santa face apron for $5.
Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society
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