Last Monday was pie day. Some of my good friends along with my sister, Kathy, my sister-in-law, Betheen, and Betheen’s mother, Iola, joined me in my kitchen to make pies again for our ice cream party. (We made 176!)
I especially missed my mother. She and Iola have always had a great time talking and working together – comparing the number of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Iola turns 103 in October and she is such a delight! She brings her own skillet and her own left-handed paring knife, and she peels apples – for hours. Of course, I couldn’t do it without my friend Judy Conover and all my friends who have helped me over the years.
As we peeled apples and assembled pies, we remembered our very first ice cream party. It was in 1976, the year of our bicentenary. Mike and I lived, as we always do, on a country road outside of Cedarville, in a crumbling old farmhouse we had purchased a few years earlier. We had four small children. Our eldest, Pat, was only eight years old.
Mike had decided to run for Greene County District Attorney. We talked about organizing a fundraiser. I wanted to make sure it was something you could take your kids to. Since it was the bicentennial year and everything was “old fashioned”, we decided that an old fashioned ice cream party would be perfect. The girls and I even wore bicentennial dresses!
We decided that the perfect menu would be pie and ice cream. I persuaded the ladies of our Mother Goose Club – our local group of housewives with lots of young mothers and children – to help me make pies after one of our meetings. (We made 20!) We recruited some of our friends to make hand-cranked ice cream. Our friend, Jeff, found a one-man-band and he played happily on the porch. Some of our friends set up tables with horses and building boards, and we borrowed folding chairs. Mike’s dad polished up his antique Ford Model T and took the kids for rides in the yard. My mother helped me make flower arrangements. We established new friendships and traditions and had a great time of family fun!
After that first year in 1976, we continued those traditions, adding more family fun things over time. One year, Norman Carey of Springfield brought the 44th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Band, a Civil War reenactment band, to play. The men wore Civil War uniforms and the women wore beautiful long dresses with hoop skirts. I remember they played very moving marches by John Phillip Sousa. We also started serving our favorite ice cream – from Young’s Jersey Dairy. And we continued to gather in my kitchen to make pies every year.
Our own children led the children’s games. I remember our son John “inventing” a book-stacking contest. One year we held a pie tossing contest. Then it became a pie-eating contest. It was the source of a lot of fun and mess over the years. We still have three leg races and sack races, using the old DeWine Seeds sacks of course!
One year our daughter, Becky, who worked at Xenia Gazette and had just written a story about the circus in town, convinced the owner to bring his elephant to the ice cream party. Mike and the kids were very excited and thought it would be great fun to bring in a baby elephant. But the baby elephant wouldn’t get off the truck!
In 1990, when Mike ran with George Voinovich for Governor/Lieutenant Governor, the goal was to bring in people from every county. Bus loads came from Cleveland and Akron. I remember the townspeople’s surprise and delight when they filmed our neighbor Bob Brenner’s baby pigs as they ran through the field behind our fence!
Our friend and local hardware dealer, Fred Luttenberger, has been in charge of social ice cream for all these years. Once he decided it would be fun to have horses and wagons to bring people home from the fields. So he asked some of our friends with horses to help him. Guy Climber, Woody Dehaven and Gene Straley brought their nice strong horses and wagons to get people home from the parking lot. What a pleasure it was!
This year our entertainment will be our neighbor Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers. Joe has played for us many times before, and he frequently plays his bluegrass music at the Grand Ole Opry. Our friends at the fire station will kick off the show with the national anthem.
We are still sitting in the shade of the trees. The old ones are gone, but the new ones we planted have matured to provide good shade. As you read this, my pies are in my oven. So come enjoy popcorn and lemonade, pie and ice cream, and visit us and the folks around the county and state. Come and enjoy our traditions as we celebrate good family policy in our latest campaign.
As always, everyone is welcome. We look forward to seeing old friends and new ones again!
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.