The advertisements and signs and posters I saw last week in honor of National 4H Week made it easy for me to remember my years as a 4Her. I was a Marion Merry Maiden, to be exact.
That was the name of the club to which my sister and I belonged. Marion refers to the township; so even though our farm was in Clear Lake township, we became members of the girls club in Marion township. That was back in the day when there were 4H clubs for girls and other ones for boys.
Another aspect of 4H that was different then was that there was a program theme for the year, and all of our individual projects fit in that classification. There was a three-year rotation among food, home furnishings, and sewing. For me, sewing was okay and food was fun, but I really hated the home furnishings year. It seemed like I always ended up attempting to refinish some piece of furniture made out of poor wood that wasn’t worth the effort and that really didn’t look much different when it was finished than before I had to work with chemicals, sand paper, and elbow grease. I know there were other projects available in home furnishings, but all I remember is that refinishing.
My memories of the cooking years and the sewing years are more positive, and many of the skills I learned then I use when I cook or work on a sewing project. In fact, I still catch myself checking the texture on a batch of muffins and wondering what a judge think about it. Sometimes I consider how straight a line of stitching is or if the back side of a piece looks as good as the front. 4H is about achievement, and I was proud of my tasty muffins that were finely textured and being able to sew a straight seam.
Then there were the demonstrations that each member had to do for probably one club meeting per year. I don’t remember all the topics, but I do remember that giving a demonstration or an illustrated talk was enough to strike terror in my heart. I believe the topics were assigned, which no doubt made for some lackluster offerings.
Now there’s much more flexibility in the 4H program, and that’s way better for the kids of today. I ‘m sure that today’s 4Hers aren’t interested in having the whole club doing similar projects. They want choices and options, like we all do today.
There are so many changes in our culture and in our world since I was a Marion Merry Maiden. So it is somehow reassuring to know that 4H remains a positive, educational, fun opportunity for young people to contribute to their community and their nation. As the 4H motto puts it, “Make the best better.”