Chancey passes 4-H

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

values to granddaughter


Features Editor

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Most of the time, parents and grandparents are viewed as just that – parents and grandparents.

Their children and grands just don’t ponder the fact that once they, too, were youngsters – playing ball, making mud pies, failing a test or two, falling in and out of love. No. They are just parents and grandparents – older, wiser and perhaps a little too overbearing at times.

Abbi Kelley had never really thought about her grandmother Judy Chancey in a 4-H kind of way – sweating away in the kitchen trying to made sure that her bread would rise or sashaying across the stage in a homemade dress in the Fashion Review. However, Abbi got a glimpse of her grandmother Wednesday that she had never seen before – playing the role that she now plays – only far differently.

Abbi is a member of the Pike County 4-H Council just as her grandmother was a few years ago.

All 4-H’ers know this history of their club. They know it started back in the "Dark Ages" around 1911 as Tomato Canning Clubs for girls and Corn Clubs for boys. But, between then and now, they are somewhat in the dark.

Mrs. Chancey laughingly emphasized that she was no tomato girl but her history in 4-H does go back "several" years. She was just as interested in and as excited about 4-H as Abbi. She had pictures to prove it and to provide Abby with the way it was when grandmother was a 4-H’er.

Mrs. Chancey had agreed to shuffle through hundreds of old photographs that belong to the Pike County Extension System in hopes of being able to identify some of the subjects.

County agents are not unlike most people. In the past, they tossed photographs in boxes, knowing the faces and names of every man, woman and child pictured. Time fades memories and now its hard, if not impossible, to put a name with the face.

As a member of the Pike County 4-H Council in the late 50s, Mrs. Chancey was a good resource person for identifying the faces in the pictures. So, Tammy Powell, county extension coordinator, invited her to join her in putting names to thousands of faces. Abbi came along and she went home having seen her grandmother in a different way.

"Being a member of 4-H gave us something to do 40 years ago," Mrs. Chancey said as she shuffled through the photographs. "It was a big thing for us. We looked forward to every meeting and to participating in the competitions."

And, no, the girls weren’t embarrassed at all to be seen in their 4-H uniforms.

Abbi’s eyes widened and a broad smile crossed her face when she saw her grandmother standing posed and prim in her uniform with the 4-H emblem very visible.

"Yes, we did wear uniforms and we were proud of them," her grandmother said with a smile.

Those uniforms identified the young girls who made a commitment to clearer thinking, greater loyalty and greater service.

Wearing those uniforms, they walked proudly into the basement of the Rock Building ready to prove that they were the best little bakers and seamstresses in 4-H.

"We usually competed in the bakeoff in teams of two," Mrs. Chancey told Abby. "We would get a friend and get together at one of our houses and bake our bread for judging. But, when we got to the competition, we still had to go through the entire process of baking the bread from measuring the ingredients to putting it in the pan for baking."

Mrs. Chancey said there was a stove on stage in the Rock Building and tables were set up on the stage for the 4-H’er to demonstrate the process.

"When we got our bread ready, we would bake it right there on the stove on the stage," she said.

When it was time for the girls to strut their stuff in the Fashion Review, the stage curtains were closed and the girls paraded in front of the curtain. A Fashion Review of homemade dresses would not have been nearly as glamours if the girls had to parade around a kitchen stove, Mrs. Chancey explained.

Abbi nodded. Today’s 4-H’er understand about fashion.

Mrs. Chancey lived in the Needmore community and coming into Troy for meetings and competitions was a real treat.

"We didn’t come into town that much and we looked forward to coming, but the biggest thrill of all was at the end of the year when we had the 4-H Rally at the Enzor Theater," Mrs. Chancey said. "All of the 4-H’er from the county would pack the theater and we’d have a talent show and then a big picnic at the park. That was the most exciting day of the year."

Abbi looked puzzled. Packing a movie theater and a picnic hardly seemed like "a walk in the park" to her.

"But it was to us," Mrs. Chancey said. "We didn’t have many opportunities like that."

The most memorable 4-H Rally for Mrs. Chancey was the one when she took the stage with her friend, the late Jimmy Vance.

Their teacher Dorothy Green had written the script for a skit that the two undoubtedly performed to the delight of the audience and the approval of the judges.

They were dressed as a farm couple and Mrs. Chancey was hard at work washing clothes in a washtub with a scrub board when her farmer "husband" came in from the field.

"We talked about life on the farm and what all we needed to do and all we had to do," Mrs. Chancey said. "I was scared to death being up there in front of all those people. But, I made it through and we won first prize. That was very exciting for me."

Mrs. Chancey said all 4-H’ers worked very hard during the year so they would be eligible to go to 4-H Camp during the summer where they lived in rustic cabins and had the time of their young lives running relays, swimming, splitting logs and learning to shoot the bow and arrow.

When night fell, they made their way to the pavilion and danced with whoever wanted to dance until curfew time. Then it was off to bed to get ready for another exciting day at 4-H Camp.

Listening to Mrs. Chancey, it was obvious that even though many things have changed about 4-H over the years, some things have remained the same. The opportunities that 4-H provides are relevant to the times, the benefits are for a lifetime and the memories are there to savor and to share.