The bus let us off in front of the house. Em and I ran inside to find chocolate doughnuts Mom had made. It was Wednesday, and Mom was nowhere in the house. We found a note on the table to meet her at the Grange Hall. The Grange was below the house on the corner of Front Street. It was quickest for us to run down the back field by the brook to the road that came out right next to the Grange Hall.

Mom would have napkins and the silverware out on the long table. Like the church, the tables were simply boards covered with linoleum for an easy cleanup. Em and I would work on setting a place for each person attending the meal, she on one side, I on the other, carefully folding the napkins under the fork and placing the spoon and butter knife on the right side of the placemat. We often used our napkin-folding ability later to impress Rena if we happened to stop over when she was prepping her table for a meal.

The Grange Hall had wooden floors and the old four-holer in the back by the kitchen. Footsteps echoed through the hall like Frankenstein. If we finished our duties before everyone arrived, we would delight in finding our way around the old building and frightening each other.

Casseroles, pie

Out front was a two-story porch. On the ground level it was solid cement and echoed well when we talked or stomped our feet. The second level was wooden-floored and closed in with screens. There were glass-paned swinging doors to get out to the porch from the inside. From the second floor, we’d look over the corner of Front Street where the camp road went to the right and the brook ran under the old steel green bridge.

The Pleasant Pond Grange was founded by farmers in town. There was a meal and meeting every first and third Wednesday of the month. It was a time for socializing but also for us to get an outstanding meal that Mom didn’t have to make. The meal was potluck, which is one reason it was so great. Each person had a specialty casserole. Janice would bring a green bean casserole and lemon meringue pie. Alma often brought macaroni and cheese with her, and a vegetable dish. Gertrude and Arland brought a sizable casserole like chop suey to the meal and some canned pickles from the season’s harvest. Mom would fill in the gaps with peas, carrots or corn from the garden.

Pat and Inza would walk over for the meal in good weather. They would drive if it wasn’t unsuitable for walking. Inza would bring her famous chocolate cream pie. Nothing quite so heavenly shared its presence on the dessert table. It was always the first to disappear if Dad and “Uncle” Vernon had anything to do with it. Seldom was a piece left for us kids.

Time for dessert

Em and I set the table for many people, but everyone didn’t come to each meal. Uncle Vernon was one of the people who always seemed to make it. He and Dad would have a time talking. Vernon lived with his sister Sadie, a schoolteacher from the one-room schoolhouse era. He had a saw-sharpening business in his garage, Vern’s Saw Shop. He wasn’t really our uncle but was endeared to the family. He always packed his pipe carefully and lit it after he was done with the meal. That was back when it was suitable for him to smoke inside the building. It was his subtle indication that it was time for dessert to be served.

Em and I had quite a time at the Grange supper. We had helped prepare the place for everyone to enjoy. We had a sense of earning our meal and felt important to be helping. We were also the official pickle openers when Gertrude or Jan couldn’t pop the lid on her canned pickles. Em or I would get our fingernail wedged in there and pop the lid right off to cheers and concerns of, “Boy, didn’t that hurt your fingers?”

Everyone would enjoy the meal and then get down to business with their meeting upstairs. It was a group effort to clean the dishes and get the food put away. Mom told us it was time to go when the meeting was starting. Em and I had come with a flashlight so we could find our way back up the hill to the house. The double wooden doors closed behind us and we caught the sweetness of pipe smoke still tickling our noses as we ran through the dark to home.



Inza Meyer’s chocolate cream pie

Crust ingredients:

½ cup butter, cut into small chunks

1 cup flour (plus some for rolling crust)

Dash of salt

2 teaspoons sugar

Cold water, enough to hold dough together

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dry ingredients into butter with a pastry blender. Add cold water, small drops at a time until crust holds together. Roll out entire crust to fit a pie plate. Weight crust with pie weights or a tin pie plate so crust doesn’t shrink when baking. Bake for 15 minutes until a light golden brown. Let cool completely before filling.

Meanwhile prepare filling:

¾ cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heavy cream, whipped and sweetened

Method:

Blend first 6 ingredients in saucepan and warm over medium heat until boiling. Boil and stir one minute. Remove from heat, then add egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Pour into cooled pie shell. Stretch plastic wrap over the top of filling and refrigerate. (The plastic allows no skin to form on top of pudding.) Top with sweetened whipping cream when serving. Yields one pie.

Hannah’s note about this recipe: The original recipe has been lost along the way so this is my mother and sister’s best recollection of how Inza made her pie. The real whipped cream is the essential additive.


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