What is Ono Grange?

Ono Grange is a non-profit, fraternal organization. We serve the Ono-Igo-TAP community by keeping local traditions alive, promoting higher education of youth through our scholarship program, sharing our history, and encouraging participation in community projects. Grange events provide occasions for local folks to gather and socialize with old friends, and opportunities to make new ones.

But what is a Grange? Ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers. Visit the California State Grange or the National Grange to learn more about how and why Granges were formed.

The History of Ono Grange

By Merla F. Clark

The Grange organization was formed in the late 1860s to improve the economic and social positions of the nation’s farm populations. The Grange provided services to rural areas, including economic development, education and legislation to assure a strong and viable rural population.

The first meeting of the Ono Grange #445 was held in a rented building on Buell Road in Ono on April 2, 1930. The first master was James J. Barr Sr. and the first secretary was Lena Driscoll. The charter members were: James Bar Sr., Mrs. Martin Driscoll, Olive Miller, David Miller, Marshall Gill, Richard Edmonds, Bob Jordan, W. Kingsbury, May Kingsbury, C.M. Murphy, Joseph N. Moon, Pauline Stevens, Eugenia Graham, Sydnie Jones, Nelly Murphy, Mrs. Addie B. Graves, Charles Plumb, Mabel Fowler, Frankie Fowler, and Mrs. Julia Edmonds.

The By-laws were adopted August 6, 1930 and the first orders of Business were to find a hall for meetings and rent or buy a piano. In February 1934 negotiations began with David Boyer of Ono to buy the lot next to the hotel and blacksmith shop where the current Grange Hall resides. Inn May 1934 Mr. Boyer donated the lot and was granted a life membership in the Grange.

Construction began immediately and by May 25, 1934 a platform was erected as the first stage. During the period of a platform only, rails were added, and dances and political debates were held that become quite popular. During this period the cutting, dressing and hauling of poles for the building framework was in progress from the hill above the Edmonds and Driscoll farms. Some of those that worked on the cutting and hauling crew were Bernard Alberg, Scott Fairley, Less Foster, Martin Driscoll, Richard Edmonds, and Mose Grant. The board and batten siding lumber was purchased from Thatcher Lumber Company in Redding. The hall was completed and dedicated by the State Grange Master in 1937.

The Grange was and is important as a social network for the Gas Point, Igo and Ono areas. There is a long history of community service associated with the Grange, ranging from providing the local 4-H Club a meeting place, a point for USDA commodities distribution, and a place for the community to come together for memorial services, weddings, etc. There are long-standing traditions including the Old Timers’ Dinner, Santa Claus’ Ride-in, pancake breakfasts, quilt shows, and a place for local groups to hold fundraisers.

The Grange first had electricity installed in 1940 when Vern Williams operated a power plant on Eagle Creek. Some furnishings have been in the Grange since practically the beginning. One of the first electric refrigerators is still there and in operating condition. There is a large, wooden cupboard purchased from Mrs. Huelseman for three dollars in 1938. In the 1940s the Grange borrowed money from its members to pay for walls inside the hall. These walls now have more than four hundred historical photographs on public display. The oak flooring was laid by members in the 1950s and the benches came from the old Redding Greyhound station. The kitchen was remodeled in 2000 by members under the lead of Jim Gray and John Francis. The mural behind the stag was painted in 2008 by member Lisa Baechtle and the handicap ramp was added in 2009.

It is an ongoing endeavor to retain the historical integrity of the building and to keep up to date with County regulations and the usual health and safety codes.

The Old Timers’ Dinner

Loleta Williams Graves

Each year, Ono Grange honors senior members of the community by hosting the annual Old Timers’ Dinner. Only those who live, or have lived, in the community and have reached the required age of 62 years are invited to attend this reunion dinner. Grange members roast turkey and ham, mash potatoes, make homemade rolls, dressing, and gravy. Community members, including some of the old timers, donate homemade pies, salads, and sides to fill out the meal.

This year, 2019, marks the Dinner’s 57th year. So, how did it get started? Many have asked over the years. The Women of the Grange answered that question back in 1987 by sharing a letter with the community at the Dinner. Here is the letter.

“This is an open letter to the Guests and the Community.
Over the years, many people have asked why we have this get-together, how did it come about, and how many years has it been since it started. It was planned by a group of young women trying to do something nice for their elders, and since this letter was written, we have discovered that this is the 25th dinner.

The Story of the Old Timers’ Dinner

Once upon a time, in the early 1960s, the ladies of the Ono Grange had a meeting in the yard of Barbara Graves’ home in Ono. Many bridal and baby showers were given in those days by Grange ladies and that summer evening, as they sat in the cool, grassy yard, another shower was being planned. As usual, cake and ice cream was to be served, and as usual, people were being asked to bring cakes. Also, as usual, Amy Jone spoke up and said, “I’ll bring a cake,” and Julia Edmonds said, “I’ll bring a cake.”

Mabel Foster looked at Amy and Julia and said, “Look at them, they always volunteer. We’re always doing something for the young people. Why don’t we ever do something for the older ones?”

Someone said, “Like what?”

Mabel said, “Oh, a party, a dinner, or just a get-together of some kind with friends their own age.”

After a very short discussion, Virginia (Slater) Phillips, our chairman at that time, said, “Let’s do it!”

Mabel Foster

And so, the first “Old Timers’ Dinner” was planned by the ladies right then and there for the coming Fall. A name had to be chosen, and knowing they couldn’t handle the general public, certain priorities had to be decided upon so that invitations could be sent. Since the purpose of dinner was to get old friends together, it was decided that old friends who used to live in the area would also be invited. But how old is an old friend? How many old friends do people have? It was decided to invite everyone 62 years of age or older who live in this area or ever did. The first dinner was given that Fall with Virginia’s able leadership and the rest of the Grange pitching in. It was considered a huge success.

Dick and Julia Edmonds at the cabin, circa 1937.

The Grange Home Economics Club bought the turkey and people donated pies and salads. A complete dinner was served family style with china dishes. Everything was free as a token of respect and affection from the Grange. It was such a pleasure for all of us working there to see your happiness in seeing your old friends, teachers, students, and to see the newer residents join in. People asked if we’d do it again. And so, we did–again and again.

Some changes have been made. Having to wait until after hot weather and hunting season caused us to run into bad weather, so we decided to have the dinner in the Spring when the weather is nicer, the country is prettier, and the time when most people like to see their old homes. The dinner was skipped that one year for the changeover. The date is now set for the Sunday before Memorial Day weekend. The qualified age has been lowered to 60. We no longer serve on china because the Grange is a smaller group now and we need to cut down on the work load, and we also serve buffet style for that reason. No entertainment is provided because we feel that you would rather visit with each other. Another change has taken place–many of those young women who planned that first dinner as a tribute to their elders are now old enough to be guests themselves.

This is an opportunity to let you know the names of the ladies who served as chairman over the years. They are, besides Virginia, Loleta Graves, Alta Pruit, Maude Coleman, Lynn Hunt, Janet Leighton, Iolene Davis, Vivian Forschler, Cindy Taylor, Ruby Foreman, and Beth Kumle. Many other names should be mentioned here, but the list would be too long. They are newcomers and old timers who, though not holding office, have worked long and faithfully. Many times, 2 or 3 generations work at the same time. We can always count on a group of teenagers to help serve. Our Grange Masters, the men in the Grange, and non-members in the community are always willing to give a hand when needed. It seems that there are always repairs to be made, grass to be mowed, etc., and they can always be counted upon. We, the Women of the Grange, acknowledge and appreciate all of the support and assistance we have received from the committees on this project. We thank all of you for donating pies, salads, and other items. We could not have done this without you. By the way, Julia, at 88 years of age, is still volunteering to bring pies.

And now, last but not least, is our opportunity to thank all of you, our guests, for your generous donations. Being the kind of people you are, you realized that this was a heavy burden for the Grange pocketbook, so you started donating money almost immediately. The amount of $200 is set aside each year as “The Old Timers’ Fund” and used to purchase meat and supplies for the next dinner. If donations do not total $200, we make up the difference. Though this dinner was never meant to be a fundraiser, we use any amount above the $200 for more tables, chairs, or repairs to the building, always striving to make it a little more comfortable. No doubt you will be happy to know that the last few years you have supported this fund.

We, the people who work here, enjoy seeing all of you each year, and miss those who do not attend. Our reward is the pleasure we see in the faces all around us as old friends and new friends meet. We go home tired but happy and making plans for the next year. So ends the tale of the friendship dinner the ladies planned that summer evening so long ago, little knowing that it was to become an annual event. Hoping to see you all next year.
Your Host and Hostesses,
The Ono Grange and Helpers
May 17, 1987″

Visit our Facebook page.

Ono Grange, 11920 Platina Rd., Ono, CA PO Box 200, Igo, CA 96047