When I was a child, reunion day was the highlight of my summer.
Father would always remind us that our presence there was prefaced by having the wheat or barley crop in the barn.
The Brubaker reunion was held in homes before the meadow became a permanent location in 1941. My age at that time was 4 years.
A short lane led to the dark gray stone farmhouse on the right, flanked by several large trees on the far side. A hand pump was in front of the porch and off to the right of the walk that led to the farm buildings. The dark house and trees gave the appearance of a shrewd watchdog over the farm — like a German shepherd's protection of a house.
Like in most meadows, there were rough spots caused by stones, rocks, ruts and natural ups and downs.
The path designed for cars was graced with a wooden fence on the left and the open meadow area on the right until the mouth of the spring was reached. The path suddenly became very narrow and elevated about 4 feet above the spring. It seems short of a miracle that no vehicle ever slid off the pathway and dropped to the stream below.
Often we were greeted by Uncle Warren, who was busy brewing coffee and/or cooking soup over the fireplace next to the spring.
Uncle Warren and Aunt Jennie were childless, but they had the ability to make all the nieces and nephews feel special, so to them it was like having 48 children on whom they could shower love and have no parental responsibilities. They were great.
By this time the pleasing aroma from meadow tea, flowing creek water, trees, midterm corn and curing clover or alfalfa hay along the fence was trapped in the meadow, and it was a sign to me that all was well with nature. The Longenecker family had cleared the meadow of any bovine excrement, so I do not remember having remnants of any on my footwear, or even getting a whiff of an undesirable odor.
Several hundred feet past the spring area, the car wheels stopped turning, and before the engine was put to rest, children could be seen emerging from the vehicle, anxious to see cousins and begin the day’s activities.
Brother Carl, with an interest in cars at a young age, looked forward to seeing what make of cars the uncles would arrive in. Uncle Raymond came in a 1948 green Pontiac one year, and Uncle Harold made his appearance in a 1949 Nash. Our father preferred Buicks.
The area between the spring and Big Chiques Creek was marshy until Uncle Elam had excavating equipment, along with a dam, make it navigable for boats. Boating then became a favorite activity for everyone.
The creek provided a place for the younger generation to get wet and let off steam. Cousin Lois remembers the reunion as being the only time of the year when she and her sisters would have a chance of being in bathing suits — provided by Aunt Jennie. What a nice gesture on her part.
The volleyball net was supported by a tree on one side and a large post on the other side. It would be idle only during meal time.
The older cousins were kind to us younger ones in allowing us to “come on in,” when we could be of little assistance in keeping the ball in play. I do remember feeling a tinge of success when the ball I served would clear the net.
While the women were engaged in friendly conversation and caring for small children, the men contented themselves pitching quoits and/or watching and cheering. There was a lot of sibling rivalry, as well as jesting between brothers and brothers-in-law.
Meal time was experienced along the tree-lined creek, and the call to gather was done by banging two pie pans together.
Seating was provided by recycled benches from a local church, and less comfortable seating consisted of boards placed over tomato baskets. Tables were boards covered with brown paper and then placed over large workhorses.
The meal was a simple one, no large smorgasbord. After blessing the food, Uncle Noah would conclude with, “Help us to remember that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
We ate Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup, carried in a large kettle from the fireplace by Uncle Warren and another muscle-bound male, along with hot dogs and perhaps chips, pretzels and relishes such as pickles and olives.
It is quite apparent that we were not there for the food. We assume the evening meal was leftovers, and plenty of hand- dipped ice cream.
The peanut scramble was an afternoon event anxiously awaited by the younger children. It was, for me, the one time I could be sure to satisfy my desire for peanuts. I think Uncle Warren was responsible for the scramble.
An area on the other side of the dam, where the stream flowed into Big Chiques Creek, had a rather steep incline with bushes. Halfway up the incline was the outhouse, visited by most of us at least once during the day. At the very top of the hill was a quaint cottage overlooking the creek many feet below. It was a nice getaway for a day or two.
One unusual incident at a reunion involved an aunt when she was in the two-seater outhouse.
She was seated, and upon looking to the empty seat, she was startled when a groundhog poked his head through the opening. What a surprise! What happened next is anyone’s guess.
As the sun was setting we had experienced a pleasant day in the meadow, and looked forward to next year.
Gladys Landis lives in Manheim Township. These Brubaker reunions were held near Manheim from the 1930s until about 20 years ago, Landis says. For a longer version of this story, visit LancasterOnline.com/features.
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