Thursday, September 16, 2010

Community Effort

More reflections on the subject of church suppers. One of the things I marvel at during these parish festivals is that they are truly a communal effort—men, women, and youngsters all have something to do; all can contribute. And the organization is truly impressive.

As we dined in the cafeteria at St. Anthony’s at Folk, Missouri, last Sunday, we sat beside one of the older members of the parish, who offered us some information. For instance, each family was in charge of donating five pies and three loaves of bread. (The pies, she noted, could not be cream pies, since the church’s refrigerated storage would be devoted to other foods.)

She also mentioned that the meat was local; in fact, her family’s farm had provided some of the beef. The sausage, also from local meat, had been prepared by a locally owned meat-packing company down by Vienna, and the people of Folk had stuffed it themselves a few days before the festival.

The Work Schedule!

After eating, Sue and I entered the church to look around. In the narthex I spied a stack of sheets listing the work assignments for the day’s events. Very interesting! Here are the categories, with the number of people listed for each shift. I’m leaving off personal names.

Most jobs have two shifts; the first starts at “beginning” or “10:45” and lasts until 3:00; the second shift starts at 3:00 and lasts until “end,” or about 7:00 p.m.

Dining Room, 26 persons per shift
Bread and Pies, 3 or 4/shift
Steam Table: 4/shift
Tea and Coffee: 3/shift
Kitchen: 5/shift
Dish Washing: 5/shift
Supper Tickets: 3 or 4/shift
Carry Food and Trash: 3/shift
Sandwich Stand: 4/shift
Sandwich Stand Tickets: 2/shift
General Raffle: 2 or 3/shift
Selling Raffle Tickets: 2/shift
Game Tickets: 2/shift
Arts and Crafts: 4/shift
Bingo: 5/shift
Toy Store and Grab Bag: 2/shift
Bounce House: 3/shift

Then, the folks assigned to the following jobs work all day, “start–end”:

Cookshed: 10 people
Carryout Meals: 5 people
Sausage Fryers: 9 men
Cooler and Meat Sales: 4 men
Shooting Match: 9 men
Splatter Cards: 3 people
Beer Stand: 10 men
Traffic: 10 men
Games: one shift, from noon to 6:45, a total of 15 folks, to oversee kiddie games of “Golf,” “Muffin Pan,” “Hoopla,” and “Plinko”


Looking at the names on the list—and observing workers at the festival—you can see there’s a separation of labor by gender, as might be expected; men typically work at the beer wagon, help drivers find parking spots on the grassy hill nearby, cook the meat, and oversee the “shooting match” (which their immigrant grandparents probably called a Sch├╝tzenfeste).

Women are generally in charge of the baked goods and desserts, the beverages, dishwashing, side dishes, and most things pertaining to children.

Women and men work shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen—feeding thousands within a few hours requires a lot of heavy lifting, so any notions of cooking being “women’s work” are brushed away, since man-muscles are clearly needed.

The names on the list also provide hints to ages and family relationships—the teens and young adults are undoubtedly the ones with names like Tyler, Megan, Brooklyn (yes! such a name in little bitty ol’ Folk!), Ashley, and Cody. They carry platters of food to tables, serve the beverages, and bus, clean, and reset the tables. They’re working at the Bounce House and the games of “Muffin Tin.” The boys carry bags of trash out to the dumpster.

Folks of my generation have names like Kevin, Jennifer, Mike, and Lori. They’re doing all the stuff that’s responsible, complex, and hard: Kitchen. Beer wagon. Sausage frying. Shooting match. Sandwich stand.

Then there are the people with names like Gertie, Dick, Norma, Betty, and Herb—the retirement generation; they’re selling supper and raffle tickets, and some of the women continue with kitchen work. They also work at the “country store.” Most of these can be sit-down jobs, and most allow for plenty of “visiting.” They’ve earned it. Twenty years ago, at this exact same location, these persons were handling the tough, demanding jobs; fifty years ago, they were bussing tables and taking out the trash.

Finally, the surnames—a study in Germanness. Here are some names from the Folk parish: Baumhoer, Gabelsberger, Heckman, Huhn, Luebbering, Temmen, Veit, Welschmeyer, Stegemann, Lueckenhoff, Hagenhoff, Woehr, Massman, Reinkemeyer, Kempker, Werdehausen, Scheppers, and Leucke. And more. And if you visit the little cemetery across the road, you know you’ll see these same names well represented.

There’s something really cool about all this; from Augustus to Andy to Ashley, from Johanna to Judy to Justin, and Henrietta to Hank to . . . “Fallon”??—well, yeah!—there’s a daily continuity here that families spread across the continent miss almost entirely.

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