The Grange Family
Invited to join Hillcrest Grange 50 years ago
Earl W. Sweitzer of Brothersvalley Township rejoined the Hillcrest Grange in 1958 along with his wife, Ada at the same time that their daughter, Emma Gene Engle joined the organization for the first time. Within five years of rejoining the neighborhood family fraternity, Earl took the organization's 1963 membership drive seriously. He made personal visits to numerous families in the Hillcrest neighborhood to invite persons to become new members. One of the new members he acquired was David R. Hay, the author of this column! (Photo by David R. Hay / April 25, 2013)
By 1958 the same couple rejoined the Hillcrest Grange and became active in attending Hillcrest meetings as well as many Pomona (county) activities. Their daughter, Emma Gene Engle also joined in 1958 and by 1962 their son-in-law; Jack A. Engle was initiated into membership. Hillcrest initiated a membership drive in the spring of 1963.
With the excitement of organizing Hillcrest's Junior Grange, various subordinate members were inspired to ask parents and friends of the prospective Junior Grangers to join the Subordinate Grange. Earl W. Sweitzer took that membership drive seriously. He canvassed the neighborhood, extending an invitation to join Hillcrest Grange to various families. That spring Hillcrest Grange was officially 47 years old, having been organized on March 16, 1916 with 57 charter members.
Among the young people that Patricia Sperry was transporting to Grange activities were her daughters, Judy and Alice, as well as my younger brother, Dan, and sister, Mary. They were all among the charter members of Hillcrest Junior Grange. Dan served as its original Master.
One afternoon Earl W. Sweitzer visited my parents' dairy farm. He talked with my father about the Grange organization and some of its benefits to families and the community. He left several membership applications with my father. At the supper table, Pap mentioned Mr. Sweitzer's visit and merely commented that if any of us were interested, he had left applications for membership.
Previously, I attended several Hillcrest meetings, piling into Pat Sperry's car for the one mile drive to the hall. Although I was a bashful teenager of 15, for some unexplainable reason, I filled out the application to become a member of Hillcrest Grange.
What a great choice I made! I immediately fit into the fellowship the organization provided with close neighbors as well as with the extended neighborhood. From the very beginning, I began my "faithfulness" to the organization by regular attendance — opting to sit in one of the back rows of chairs so I was almost hidden from sight. The younger members soon invited me to accompany them to county meetings to participate in the youth ritual teams. I was invited to ride along with other members to county visitation and Pomona sessions.
I liked those opportunities for making new friends across Somerset County. Although bashful, I made it my policy at each county meeting to "scootch in" beside someone I hadn't previously known to form new friendships. I was 15, too young to drive, and within the first several years of my membership was learning to stretch my $15 monthly allowance to afford attendance at State Grange youth camp, leadership conferences, State Grange conventions and to cover the cost of my rooms and meals.
Those first years I'd often walk from the farm to the Hillcrest hall and following the meetings, the good members often provided rides home to the farm. I'd bum rides to county meetings and often to state events.
Gradually I lost my shyness and began accepting leadership positions. In 1988 when I received my Silver Star pin and certificate for 25 consecutive years of membership, I was deeply honored that an aged Earl W. Sweitzer — who originally invited me to become a Granger — could stand beside me for a picture receiving my certificate from Leon W. Paul, Hillcrest Master.
I've missed very few Hillcrest meetings these last 50 years. I'm excited that at our second Pomona visitation program this spring — May 8 — I'll be receiving my 50-year "Golden Sheaf Certificate." The event will take place in the fellowship hall of Somerset Church of the Brethren beginning with a covered dish supper at 6:30 p.m. My wife and I are providing the ham and inviting friends to bring salads, casseroles and desserts.
Leon W. Paul will be presenting the 50-year certificate and Earl Sweitzer's daughter, Emma Gene Engle — Hillcrest's secretary — will assist along with Jim Mowry, Master of Somerset County Pomona Grange.
Special vocal solos will be provided by Esther Mowry, a recent 50-year-member. Traveling from Normal, Illinois to provide piano selections will be Dr. Klaus Schmidt, (a Hillcrest member) who on three different occasions represented the Pennsylvania State Grange at the National Grange Talent Contests and came home with first and second place ribbons.
Theme for the evening is "Great is Thy Faithfulness," one of my favorite hymns of the church. I'm hoping that my Hillcrest, Wills, Kingwood and other Grange friends will attend as well as family and other friends.
I've used the Grange as a stepping stone and will forever be grateful that Earl Sweitzer chose to drive down my parents' farm lane 50 years ago!