Today is the big day of our summer social. We’re adding another chapter to the long history of summer socials at St. Joe. Some of our older parishioners can remember that, as children, the summer social looked a little different than it does today. Back then, our parish was primarily a farming community and most parishioners raised large vegetable gardens. Saturday morning, before the social, people would bring a few live chickens and they would be butchered and cleaned. And then everyone brought baskets filled with fresh vegetables for the dinner. Preparing the dinner was no easy feat, considering that the parish did not have a kitchen and running water to prepare a meal. So, people brought their pots and pans and all the kitchen utensils they would need and set up some temporary stoves near the old school building (presently the parking lot just east of our current rectory). What a challenge that must have been! But folks did what was necessary to make things happen.
Back then, the social was the one event of the year that families looked forward to with great anticipation. People would come early for dinner, then return home to do the evening farm chores and then return to the social grounds for the evening.
Things took a big leap forward in 1958 when the new school building, complete with a modern kitchen and running water, was opened. I’m sure the folks thought they had died and gone to heaven! They didn’t even mind that the new building was not air-conditioned. A big tent was erected between the old rectory and the church and became the place to play bingo. Money wheel tickets were 10¢, 3 for a quarter and you could win $5.
As late as 1966, some fifty years ago, the summer social provided almost one/sixth of the total parish income for the year. (The social made $11,000 and the total income for the parish that year was $69,000). To do the same today, we would have to make $250,000 on our social!
Over the years, our parish has become much less of a farm community and our social, far from being the one event people looked forward to all summer, is now one of many events on people’s calendar. Even so, the social tradition continues. Now, in the short span of a few hours, we are able to serve dinner to over 2200 dinners. That’s a pretty remarkable achievement! And we are ever so grateful for having an air conditioned gym and cafeteria to serve our meals and to host an afternoon of bingo playing. How did we survive without air-conditioning! We continue to fry hamburgers, serve ice cream, lemonade and soft drinks, and now a ticket on the money wheel can cost $5.
Then, as now, the social is a place for our young children to win all manner of trinkets, gold fish, glassware, all of which brings great delight to them while also creating that “oh my where will we put this” look on the faces of their parents. And, for our young teenagers, it’s still a time to test those budding friendships, especially with the opposite sex! What’s better than impressing your new girl friend by buying her an ice cream cone! Oh to be young again! Over the years the children have scampered about spraying each other with water from newly purchased water guns or spraying each other with silly string (always a big money maker for us!). It gives the adults a chance to put their stern face on and scold them for make a nuisance of themselves! Yes, great memories abound.
In the years that I have been here, many of the old timers who were instrumental in the work of our social have moved on to the ranks of the faithful departed. I think of them as the patron saints of our social. I imagine them looking down upon us with smiles on their faces and praying with us and for us as we work together.