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A memorable 4-H project remembered

September 22, 2012
Bonnie Phares - From Where I Sit , The Inter-Mountain

The Inter-Mountain recently published pictures of the kids who attended older and younger 4-H summer camp at Camp Pioneer. Looking at those pictures, I started remembering my days in 4-H and some of the sewing skills I learned there. Actually, there were more than I realized. My mother taught me the basics, because she spent lots of hours with her foot on the pedal of her old Singer. But one 4-H sewing project I took covered one of the more "sophisticated" techniques of sewing.

Ginny Poling was leader of the Everleading 4-H Club, which met in the Marstiller School on the Leading Creek Road. There were probably 12 to 15 of us who made up the membership, all country kids for whom 4-H was our only outside activity. I believe I was a member from the permitting age of 8 years old, until I graduated from high school. This was all during the 1950s.

At that time, each member chose a project for the ensuing year. I can recall two that I chose: "How to Wrap a Sandwich" and "Setting the Table." These were important domestic chores, for sure, and a big deal for me as a kid.

Once you mastered all the project book taught about your choice, it was required that you stand before the rest of the club members and perform a "demonstration" of all that you learned. What a big deal this was! We all practiced, prepared and nervously stood at the front of the schoolhouse room, with all those faces staring back. I do recall, still today, how to neatly wrap a sandwich in old-fashioned waxed paper. Can you imagine doing that today? Waxed paper is almost obsolete!

And, in setting the table, proper placement of silverware was a must: Fork on the left, knife and spoon on the right, with the knife blade facing out. And never touch the eating ends of these pieces; that just wasn't sanitary!

In later years, probably around the age of 13 or 14, I chose sewing as my annual project. And then I moved into the big time for 4-H demonstrations: Jackson's Mill. This was following lots of encouragement from Ginny Poling and assistance from Mrs. Pingley (I can't recall her first name) who was then the local 4-H agent.

I had ideas about the demonstration, and Mrs. Pingley came to the farm and coached me. She said I did a great job in my "rehearsal" that day, and I was definitely ready for the competition. A blue ribbon was on the way!

What project did I choose? I made a "ham," which was used in those days for the fitting of sleeves and any other curved sewing requirements. It was sewn from muslin, stuffed, and came out shaped just like the ham from a hog. How proud I was of my ham!

And I was ready to show everyone at Jackson's Mill how to make and use one. I practiced and practiced, and I knew exactly what I wanted to say and do at the right time. I was full of anticipation and confidence ... until I arrived at Jackson's Mill that day and saw all those other girls who also had taken sewing as a project.

There were neatly tailored dresses they had made, matching skirts and blouses, bib aprons with rick-rack trim - all these beautifully sewn items. And I showed up with a ham.

And, to make matters worse, the room was filled to capacity with all these spectators, family and friends of the other 4-H members. Then there was - right up front - a table of judges who never smiled and looked far too professional for this farm girl.

When my name was called, I marched to the front of the room, performed my demonstration and quickly retreated to the back of the room, trusty ham under my arm. I knew I hadn't said what I wanted to say; I had left portions out completely; the only thing I didn't do was stutter. It was all a big mistake. And this was confirmed when I received my ribbon - and it wasn't blue. It was white. I might as well not have received a ribbon at all.

It took me a good while to get over the disappointment of that day. But I learned a lot of things, too, which sank in much later.

Next time, I would scout out exactly what I was getting into so I would better understand the situation. Maybe I didn't fit in with the crowd, but I maintained my dignity and did what I set out to do anyway. There's a difference between standing up in front of people you know and doing the same with people you have never met. Most of all, a teaspoon of humility leaves a sweeter taste than a cup full of pride.

And, if you're going to spend your time on a project, make it something that will benefit you. That ham was never used by me or anyone else!

 
 

 

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