DOBSON — From old toys to old tools of the trade, walking into the Surry County Cooperative Extension Office was a bit like walking back in time Friday afternoon.
The local office held a centennial open house Friday to celebrate the history of Home Demonstration, Home Economics and Family and Consumer Sciences through the N.C. Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences program. As part of the open house, the extension staff collected toys, kitchen gadgets, photographs and other memorabilia from days gone by. There were old sewing machines, apple peelers, scrapbooks and record books, toys, even an electric butter churner, at the time the envy of the neighborhood.
“It’s been a fun event to put together. It gave us the chance to learn things family and consumer science did through the years. We’re now very appreciative of the fact we don’t have to do what our ancestors did,” said Carmen Long, Surry County family and consumer science extension agent, giving an example of information on a mattress-making workshop. “It’s fun and exciting to think our history goes back that far.”
Surry County’s Home Demonstration Club was chartered in the 1930s. By 1958, there were at least 25 clubs in existence in the varying communities of Surry County. These clubs provided a way for women in rural areas to stay in touch with the latest trends as well as help out the community.
“The clubs gave rural women the opportunity to learn. It gave them an organization that allowed them to learn the newest and best way of being a housewife, or running a farm or a family. It was an organization that really enabled women who had not had the opportunity for formal education to learn the newest trends,” said Marion Venable.
Family and consumer sciences taught women skills such as canning and preserving food, household cleaning tips, how to refinish furniture, updating kitchen items and even clothing design. The organization also established book mobiles that would travel to rural areas to provide the opportunity for children and women to have access to books. The bookmobiles ran on a schedule that would take them to country stores and even sometimes to houses.
With the change in the availability of technology and mobility, the purpose of the organization has had to change over the years. Today, family and consumer sciences brings information about health care, the dangers of food illnesses, sustainability and other topics.
One group that has continued to be active in the organization of the years is the Busy Bees. Both Lucy Browne and Caroline Kirkman are members of the group and were at the open house on Friday.
“We’ve enjoyed the extension for many years. We have such a good leader. Carmen (Long) does a really excellent job,” said Browne.
The women enjoyed the opportunity to look at some of the older items. Browne even contributed some toys and a grammar book that belonged to her father.
“I’ve had them for years. I treasure them so I wanted to bring them to show to others,” she said. “The Bi-lo baby was made by my sister. They made them here at the extension a long time ago. She worked so hard on it and gave it to me. It’s neat to see all this. There are so many of them like the toaster I had never seen.”
One item that mesmerized many of those present was the electric butter churner. Kirkman admitted she used a glass churner when she needed to make butter.
“I remember the new easy washers. That was such a relief because it really was so much easier to use,” said Browne.
“Things were done differently then,” added Kirkman.
Gerlene Snow served as the County Council President for one year and has been active in the organization for many years. She hoped to use the open house as a chance to catch up with her friends.
“I came to see all my friends. Things go busy at home and I had to give up some of my clubs. I miss it so much,” said Snow. “I still do a lot of volunteer work.”
Doing volunteer work was, and still is, a staple of the local clubs. Snow noted that her club had a seven mile stretch of highway where they picked up trash, members served on the board of directors for the American Red Cross and made kits and quilts for kids who are victims of disaster situations. They also provided paper and pencils to area elementary schools to ensure all students had the necessary supplies.
Contact Morgan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org