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.
2019 marked 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!”
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.
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″