By Rita Maisel
The weather and the calendar tell us this is the time of year when not just the Langdon community but across the nation used to turn to fall bazaars and craft shows. Really old local newspapers from the 1800s would describe the handwork offered at these events including the menu for a chicken dinner or a pancake supper or even a lutefisk feed. Fifty years ago, there were people who tried to get to them all! Some were my relatives, and some may have been yours. They arranged rides and planned ahead to get to the Lutheran Bible Camp (coming up this weekend), Olga Church Supper, meals at Munich, Wales, and Walhalla, the Methodist Ladies Bazaar with soup and sandwiches, plus fundraisers for a new ambulance, local nursing homes, new band uniforms, soup for the abuse center and dozens of fundraisers for people faced with emergency health needs. If the event was anywhere in your general community, you crossed all denominational lines and attended.
Some of these events continue and possibly the prices have gone up and the expected profits higher. There were more than monetary benefits to the original events, although they did help build churches, hospitals, firehalls, maybe an ice arena, and help many needy causes. For one thing, they were an event which brought out a lot of people and made friends out of neighbors who had previously been strangers. They were also an outlet for ladies who enjoyed baking, making candy and pies, knitting, crocheting, quilting, and small crafts of many kinds. Men did woodworking of many sorts. Wives painted the wood with rosemaling or other decorative designs. Both men and women painted in oils or acrylics, did ceramics and metal sculptures, created birdhouses and doll houses with tiny furniture and décor. In more recent times there was often a booth (or several) with doll clothes designed for Barbies, Cabbage Patch dolls, American Girl dolls, Raggedy Anne and Andy – whatever was popular at that moment.
Edith Christie had learned to tat years before, but when Jackie Albrecht had her Needles Discovery shop, Edith learned a few tricks from Jackie. Edith had four groups she wanted to support with her craft: the church bazaar, the museum at Dresden, the Langdon Hospital and Maple Manor. When she completed an intricate tatted creation it went on her dining room table (under plastic) in one of those four piles. Should people wish to purchase a specific item before the fall events, the funds went into one of four envelopes on hand which she would bring to the annual fundraisers for those causes. Her craft was for fun and to do good with the money received. It was a good lesson for younger crafters.
Being the Durum Capital, Langdon sales often featured wheat designs and wheat weaving. There are memories of Carol Hanson bringing her loom and showing how other weaving was done. I loved these shows for the ideas and the friends you could meet and might have gotten started with selling through working with silk flowers – a craft which allowed time to admiring the work of other crafters. Each sale you attended led to invitations to come to another site, so in good weather travel was often a large part of the events. People who saw the flowers tended to ask for corsages in specific colors and how long it would take me to make them. Their wedding was at four…….. Most only wanted small arrangements but sometimes there would be a special order for a bride’s bouquet which I soon learned was a major undertaking, and they should be directed to a professional florist.
Making the items turned out to contribute to lifelong friendships. While I remember buying many bags of specially sized beads from the Geisen craft shop in Langdon as well as at McGiffins in Grand Forks, the pattern for the first Christmas bell might have been given to me with the suggestion to “make some for the bazaar”. Many people found designs that they thought were interesting and shared them hoping I would try it out. The rationale was that if I could do it, they would give it a try. There is a memory of playing around with the bell suggestion for small gifts over one Christmas season. The circle ladies decided they would make them. I was to bring the beads, needles, thread and patterns to a group meeting at Vera Hart’s home. It must have been spring since ladies attending included some snowbirds. Each lady counted out the required number of beads in the color of their bell, the tiny gold or pearl seed and oat beads and threaded a beading needle to start the project. Trial and error ensued. After a couple of hours some had the foundation row of their bell done and put the needles and remaining beads in sandwich bags to take home along with a copy of the pattern. The attempts at creating a small bell lost their enchantment when lunch was offered. Some brought the bags back to the next meeting, untouched. They had lost the pattern, forgotten what to do next, had used up all the beading thread or lost the needle…. The name of the game became “You finish this for me.” We sold a lot of bells at that bazaar with several ladies pointing out specific bells on the tree and telling customers this was one they had personally made. That might have been true, but after that year the ladies in charge tended to specify how many I was to bring for the sale. You may still have some in your Christmas decoration supplies.
Another fun project involving many people became the sand dollar project. Helyne Weise had a sand-dollar picture on the wall of her living room at a winter meeting. On the back was a poem or story and everyone at that meeting loved this unique decoration. But where would we get sand dollars? Larry Wenzel wintered in Texas right near Padre Island, and soon a box of the shells arrived. Vera Hart knew that there were little doves in the sand dollars that needed to be removed, and everyone had a chance to try that operation. Ethyl Kaercher and Lola Schrader knew people who had scraps of lumber to make the frames. Vera Hart and her son, Jim, stained or varnished the frames. Vivian Goschke found felt and some velvet to make the backing. Lola worked at a hardware store and had her brothers come in and cut the glass needed to fit the frames. In other words, there was a job for everyone, and believe it or not every picture sold! Some may still be on a wall in your home today.
For several years I grew to dislike those boxes of Fisher-Price blocks that, when opened, had mostly blocks with letters like “O, H, or X” in them because the ornaments I made using the blocks were in demand for grandchildren whose names started with “J, K, A, or P” – letters rarely found in the boxes for sale. Boxes of unusable letters ended up at the Day Care Center, who eventually refused them “because all the children are not Olsons” – referring to the abundance of “O” blocks. A note from a mother who had received a “D” block when her son, Damian, was a baby, recently mentioned he is now living and working in Australia. When they had visited him at Christmas, he had his block on the tree. After years of making them, I had two designated blocks left: “E” for Ethan Kram and “C” for Claire Hiltner. Nowhere could I find an “A” for Autumn Howatt born about the same week as the other two – all new arrivals around bazaar time.
The list of fun projects we worked on was long and varied. One year the snowbird ladies from both Arizona and Texas brought back the same petal pillow design – roughly a many-pointed star in bright colors. Recently searching for inspiration, that colorful pattern surfaced in some old pattern books. Studying the directions, which ended after Row 1 and Row 2, I realized that if you have a sample there had to be a few more rows before completion. The ladies I knew who made them are no longer here. Another popular book had some of the designs of the intricate “everything pineapple” era which kept two of my older cousins busy year after year making pineapple doilies, runners and tablecloths. For a change of pace, they had a pattern they called wheat and would tell stories of someone a generation further back who had mastered the Star of India. These wonders brought good prices at bazaars and auctions for the hospital foundation along with ripple afghans, vintage doll costumes and homemade pickles. Other years we made spice ropes, table centerpieces, butterfly refrigerator magnets, clever gift baskets, dishcloths and potholders and scarves limited to one skein of yarn. When people insisted on knowing the exact length of the scarves, the labeling had to change to exact inches wide and long, and the completed scarf often took a second skein.
Whatever the projects they raised money for special causes and left us with good memories and long-time friends.