Extension study groups are an outgrowth of educational programs established as part of the Morrill Act of 1862 that provided for the building of land grant colleges in each state. In 1914 the Extension Services were developed to disseminate the knowledge gained at the land-grant colleges to those living primarily in what were then rural areas. The study groups provided not only a chance to learn but became a means of those living in rural and small communities the opportunity to meet, share local information and socialize.
The Garden Home Extension Study Group has been meeting for over 55 years. Those attending the annual summer potluck this year (2010) were: Helen Schisler, Sandy McKiernan, Ernilie Storrs, Mildred Stevens, and Patty Bonney. Sharon Takahashi and Karen Bondarowicz were not able to attend. Elaine Shreve and Virginia Vanture came as invited guests. It was a hot July day as we sat outside enjoying barbecued chicken, carrot and potato salads, a variety of delicious desserts, all accompanied by iced tea.
The actual date the Garden Home Extension Study Group began is not known but the first record of a meeting was on September 21, 1955 when the group gathered in the home of Mrs. Byron Meisner to announce new officers for the coming year, discuss the topics for future meetings and enjoy the pot luck luncheon organized by the Refreshment Committee.
Martha Hutchins was selected as Chairperson, with Dorothy McKay as Vice Chair and Pat Sylvester taking on the responsibilities of Secretary and Treasurer. Betty Clausen, Dorothy Meisner, Ruth Van Bruggen, Viriginia Bristow, Velma Morrison, Julie Fisher, Irene Slettland and Loucille Bettendorf agreed to serve as members of the Standing committees: 4-H and A.C.C.W., Health and Safety, Publicity, Refreshment and Program Planning.
Some of the study topics selected for that year would be:
- The Art of Pressing
- Low Cost Meals
- Understanding Your Sewing Machine
- Pattern and Fabric Coordination
- Accessories for Your Clothes
New members, Jessie Cooke, Elaine Matteson, Beverly Kinnman, _____ Hackett, Elise Flowers, and Joan Westcott were welcomed to that day’s meeting. Velma Morrison announced that Garden Home Extension members would be participating in a radio broadcast and Virginia Bristow, Health and Safety Chair, handed out Civil Defense booklets and encouraged everyone to attend an upcoming First Aid course offered by the Red Cross.
A final announcement was made that the PTA was holding a workshop for those making hats for the School Carnival, and encouraged all to attend. The group then adjourned to enjoy lunch.
Many of these women such as Dorothy McKay would go on to become life-long members, serving various times in leadership positions and sharing their leadership skills and the knowledge they acquired in the Extension gatherings with others.
The Study Group meetings followed a format which usually involved a drawing for a door prize (The October 23rd meeting of 1957 featured a plastic juicer and cup provided by Rachel Tate and won by Mary McGuire and on March 17th, 2005 this was a warm loaf of bread won by Mildred House) and often a mixer of some sort such as introducing the person sitting next to you and sharing what you liked about them or telling what your own favorite appliance was. (October 21, 2004 meeting.) Sometimes a game or quiz relating to that day’s presentation would be given out and the answers shared.
The treasurer’s report was given and a discussion might follow as to what the money was to be used for. Members paid dues into a fund and participated in events organized by Oregon State University Extension to raise money for 4-H Extension camp scholarships. The Garden Home group could decide to use some of the money for themselves, paying for babysitters for members, taking field trips, giving money to charities or to provide additional scholarships to 4-H youth wishing to attend the summer camp programs held on campus at Oregon State University.
Following this the study topic would be presented. Sometimes by members dressed to demonstrate the proper way to wash clothes!
Lunch followed along with socializing. Over the years the format remained the same though the study topics were updated to reflect the changes in society. What didn’t change were the deep friendships made and enriched through the gatherings. Over the years members would become ill, move away, lose loved ones, move back, and through it all they kept in touch. Letters were exchanged, Thank you notes passed around, and calls made to those unable to attend. It is the same today.