The 1969 Mercer County Grange Drill Team

Last week I wrote about the local Farmers’ Institute meetings and that me reminded me of another rural organization that our family belonged to in the 1960s–the Chattanooga Grange.

The Chattanooga Grange meetings were held at the old Parish Hall east of Chattanooga on Tama Road. In addition to the monthly meetings the Chattanooga Grange sponsored and participated in a couple big events every year.

One event was the Strawberry Festival. Once a year, in the spring, the Chattanooga Grange would prepare a meal that revolved around the dessert–fresh strawberry shortcake. It was a big event that drew a crowd of people from miles around and the food was delicious. Grange members know how to cook! I remember cleaning crates and crates of strawberries the morning of the meal and waiting tables that evening. It was a lot of work, it was fun, and it was a major source of revenue for our organization.

Back in the 60s there were five or six individual Granges in Mercer County and each was responsible for decorating a booth at the Mercer County Fair. The displays were judged at the fair and ribbons were awarded. A specific theme was assigned each year and booth displays had to adhere to that theme. I remember one year the theme revolved around a pair of hands. My dad made a mold of his cupped hands, cast them in plaster, and painted the finished cast a gold-color. It was creative. I wish I had some photos of those fair booths.

In 1969 the youth members from the Mercer County Granges formed a drill team and we won the Ohio State Grange Drill Team competition. The Grange drill team had to adhere to many required movements and formations. One of the required formations was a cross. We practiced our formations and our marching over and over. We crisscrossed across the stage and made sharp turns. I recall that our drill lasted about 10 minutes. Rosella (Dull) Vining accompanied us on the piano with a lively march. The women wore black jumpers with white blouses and the men wore black trousers and white shirts and black ties.

This photo was taken right after we won the competition:

Mercer County Grange Drill Team, State Champions, 1969. [1]

Mercer County Grange Drill Team, State Champions, 1969. [1]

We chartered a bus to take us to the competition, held in Ashville, Ohio, about 20 miles south of Columbus. We were confident about our drill but were nervous before going out onto the stage. We marched very well that night and when the drill was over we knew that we had nailed it. We had won the state Grange drill championship.

But the evening was far from being over. On the way home we had bus trouble. In a time before the idea of cell phones ever existed, the driver had to walk for help, leaving us stranded on the bus. We sat in the bus, somewhere on the side of some road, in the dark, for hours and hours. We did not get home until about 6:00 a.m. the next morning. But Mercer County had won the 1969 State Grange Drill Team Championship.

Mercer County Grange’s Youth Drill Team journeyed to Ashville Saturday and won the state championship in competition with seven other district contest winners. The local group collected 98.5 points of a possible 100 to top second place Stark County which earned 96 points. Fairfield County was third with 95.5 points while Erie County placed fourth with 95. The local team will perform at the State Grange convention in October. Team members are, left to right, front row, Pam Gilmore, Nancy Laffin, Karen Westerberg, Vicki Gause, Marge Gause and Karen Miller; middle row, Mrs. Rosella Vining (pianist), Ron Miller, Bob Willrath, Janet Howell, Susan Canary, Dorothy Hoenie, Angela Thurston, and Jun Hoenie; back row, Ray Gilmore (director), Jerry Laffin, Wayne Doner, Dave Stephenson, Ken Doner, Bruce Felver and Gail Grunden.


[1] The Daily Standard, Celina, Ohio, Monday, 31 March 1969.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.