"Would you care to take me out to supper tonigh?" she asked, and I said, "All those not solicited please bring cake." That was the general alarm added to notices of Grange meetings; those who had been solicited would bring the beans and the biscuits and the sundries decided upon by the supper committee. Just inside the eating room door there would be a table about ten feet long on which those not solicited would lay their cakes before going upstairs for the preprandial exercises. In my opinion the cake table at a Grange supper was the world's most beautiful work of art.
We didn't go to any Granger supper. We let our Grange memberships lapse years ago. We went to a restaurant. But I did say, "Why don't you see if you can find an old-time church supper, and we'll go. Must be some place somewhere that they still put one on." As of this writing, we have heard of a couple and hope to attend. Women's groups raise money by "putting on" public suppers, but we don't expect today's tourist-time offerings will come close to a real thing as brough to perfection by the Grange.
Grange suppers were for Grangers, the Patrons of Husbandry, and not very much on the menu got bought at a store. The membership would include a dozen or so dairy farmers, and turn by turn these would bring the thick cream and the rural butter. Great pans of yeast rolls and cream-tartar biscuits would arrive. We were usually "solicited" for an apple pie or two, which was complimentary to my cook, and then I always volunteered to make the hot drinks which put me on "the committe."
There was considerable work to being on the committee. Plans came first, and then the committee arrived early to start up the ranges and prepare. Tables had to be set and chairs counted. Feeding a hundred or more meant waiting on, and also filling the salts and peppers and sugars. Then cleanup while the other Grangers went upstairs for the meeting. Washing dishes. Somebody had to cut the cakes and pies and, after the meal, conduct the auction that disposed of the left-overs. It was the function of the Worthy Master to make the announcement that cakes and pies might be had, proceeds to the general funds.
One of my favorite public-supper stories is about the time Harry Blackstone was on the committee and brought two pots of baked beans. His wife drove him over early so he could help set tables, intending to return at suppertime with the rest of the family. So Harry picked up a pot of beans in one hand and his wife reached over and set the other pot of beans in his other. She drove off, and Harry walked to the Grange hall door. How do you lift a latch or turn a knob while holding two pots of beans? Have you ever, dear reader, held a pot of beans in each hand and tried to set one of 'em down? Harry kicked on the door and yelled, but the folks inside heard him not.Twenty minutes went by. Then somebody else on the committee arrived and Harry was all right again.
My favorite public-supper story of all is about the time my mother was chairman of the super committee for the annual Congo Church chicken pie event. Secretary Harris came to her and said, "I ain't no hand for doing good, and it's time I held up my end. I want to donate the chickens for this year's supper." Delighted at this offer from such an unexpected source, Mother accepted his charity, distributed his chickens to the ladies who baked a pie apiece, and the supper netted almost $300. Then Ken Bailey had Secretary Harris arrested for stealing his hens.