Sunday, August 2, 2009

fond memories

“Back when I was a kid....”
That’s the phrase that makes every young person cringe. I know, I used to feel the same way in the days of my youth.
But as a boomer, I find myself saying that more and more. And I’m sure there are lots of people cringing every time I do.
Hey, at least I’m cognizant of the fact.
Really, though, I find it both fun and a bit comforting to lose myself in those days of yore every now and again.
And when the early days of August roll around, I always find myself thinking back to the years I spent in 4-H, since the annual 4-H Fair is held at this time.
This year is no exception. Montgomery County’s 4-H Fair runs Aug. 6 through Aug. 8 at the center in Skippack, and when I read the press releases they send it immediately takes me back.
Of course, “back when I was a kid,” there was no 4-H Center or pole barns or horse show rings or ... Well, you get the point.
For many years, we had our “round-up,” as it was called back then, on the grounds of the Worcester Elementary School. There were so many exhibits that some of them also had to be housed in the Farmers Union Hall at the edge of the school grounds.
Tents were put up as shelter for the large animals and as “show” areas for them. Other projects were displayed in the school.
Growing up on a small farm, I always had Jersey dairy animals, and other 4-H projects included chickens, pigs, flowers, vegetables, geology, entomology and the like.
Of course the pig round-up was held in the beginning of September at what had been the Hatfield livestock auction. Because there was no actual “ring” to show them in, cars and trucks were parked tightly together to fashion a makeshift show area.
Ah, yes, we had all the latest amenities.
But no one cared. The 4-H program was huge and it was a time when there were still lots of farms in the area. When I was in the dairy club, for example, we had three different clubs to accommodate all the members.
And when you stood in a line for the “fitting” contest with your animals — to see how well you had washed, clipped their hair, cleaned their ears and otherwise “manicured” them —it seemed to take forever for the judge to make it to your spot.
We had so much fun back then. The 4-H activities included roller skating at Menlo Park in Perkasie, hayrides, Halloween parties, trips to Penn State for competitions, late nights at district and state animal shows —and yes, a lot of work.
But it was all worth it. And it sure beat today’s obsession with computer and video games.
There’s so much I haven’t even mentioned, like the never-to-be-forgotten week in Washington, D.C., filling out “blue forms,” helping the younger kids as a teen leader, “liberating” that sign from the Farm Show building dorm that reads “No lights or alarms before 5:30 a.m.,” washing cows at 4 a.m., learning how to milk, searching for fossils at Deer Lake or coming back from a hayride and trying to explain how all that straw got stuffed down inside my clothes.
Hey, it was all good clean fun. Honest.
My days in 4-H have left me with lasting memories. I hope the “kids of today” are experiencing the same.
And don’t forget to check out the fair next week. It may just spark some memories for you, too — or prompt you to get your kids enrolled in a great program.

No comments: