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‘We thought we knew it all’

It was a blustery February day, with patches of clear ice scattered here and there along the highways, when Arlene Meyer, Marie Marthaler, Marilyn Schwegman, and yours truly, headed toward Melrose, and the home of fellow Hindenberg Homemaker, Virginia Meyer. We were happy about getting together, in spite of the weather, and we were on a mission.     It was close to 20 years since our group met in the name of the Hindenberg Homemaker Club. These learning sessions took place monthly in each other’s homes, where we would review the lesson two members had retrieved while attending the U of M Stearns County Study Group meeting for that month. Way Back When     Around 1973, our group decided to start a Homemaker club, maybe just to get away from the humdrum of everyday farm life, and maybe we could learn something new besides. When we asked club member, Arlene Meyer why she joined, she, in turn, asked her husband, “Red, why did I join Homemakers?” and his reply from another room was, “To learn to cook water!”      Ignoring that remark, Arlene answered, (and I think she spoke for the rest of us) “I liked that it was a social day and evening once a month. Getting to know members from other clubs through the county meetings, working together on projects and getting together in our homes was what made it all special.” Learning to ‘Wok’     Yes, we did learn about new cooking methods. I particularly remember the session on Wok cooking, because it was unfamiliar to us at the time. I think Marie Marthaler and Florentine Koetter were in charge of that one, and we had a good time with it. We laughed at how awkward we felt using it at first. Most lessons gave us ideas we could apply at home, but I doubt any of us continued the Wok cooking!     As you may have guessed, our lesson was not the only thing we discussed at our meetings. For instance, one of our learning sessions was about funerals, including a tour of the funeral home. You can imagine the interesting conversation we had with that since we were all young and only in our 30’s at the time!     Since we had to meet in the evening, we invited our husbands too. They played cards, while the gals ‘learned their lesson’. They could always tell how much we learned by the noise coming from the other room, and always before we knew it, it was time for coffee and dessert, and, yes, more conversation.         Why the name ‘Hindenberg’?     At that time Highway #4 from Meire Grove to Lake Henry was sort of called The Hindenberg Line, maybe because of all the Germans living in that area. In spite of that, we had some fine Irish in the bunch, and you know who you are! A few changes     Over the years, two of our members, Joanie Meyer, and Florentine Koetter passed away, leaving the five of us. It was definitely not the same without them, but the club went on until some of us retired and moved. We all wondered why our club finally broke up the learning sessions, and concluded jokingly, “We thought we knew it all by then!”     Yes, we had all changed a bit since our last meeting. A ‘few’ grey hairs here and there, a pound or two, more or less, our steps were a little less springy – especially on the icy pathways. We were ‘practically’ dressed for the weather now, where years ago we wouldn’t be caught dead with a hat or long johns! One thing was for sure as we settled in at Virginia’s lovely home in Melrose: that old enthusiasm was still there.  Our hostess remarked with a laugh, “Sorry guys, I forgot to go to the informational meeting!” And so the get-together began just like old times, with conversation bouncing from one subject to another. And so it went, bringing back good memories of times gone by, and before we knew it, it was time for Virginia’s delicious dessert.   We will meet again     Our Hindenberg reunion was such a wonderful time, we are planning to meet more often.  And, since we agreed that, by now, ‘we think we know it all’, our new learning sessions will be ‘just for fun!’ Other interesting tidbits     The Stearns County Extension Homemaker program had a variety of names through the years, and in 2000, the restructuring of the University of Minnesota Extension Service changed how they relate to the homemakers. Home Study Groups became the Learning Circles. The current county president is one of our own gals from Meire Grove, Marie Vornbrock Kahlert, who now resides in Cold Spring. According to Kahlert, as funds became scarcer, the office of Extension Home Economist was eliminated, making a big difference. The Extension office helps the clubs wherever they can, but mostly they are pretty much on their own. Only 14 groups remain, and this is partly due to long-time members dropping out as they became older. There is definitely a need for ‘new blood,’ it seems. Anyone interested in becoming involved or starting a homemaker club of their own can get information by calling the Extension Office 1-888-241-4591.     Kahlert’s homemaker group, the Budget Benders, has been very active through the 31 years they have been together. She remarked, “We’ve decided that if the program should ever cease to exist, we would still stay together – we’ve gotten to be good friends over thirty years.” Debbie Botzik Linn     I had a nice visit by phone with our well known and loved, former home economist, Debbie Botzik Linn. These days she is the Extension Educator in Food Science with University of Minnesota, and travels the state teaching groups about food preservation, organic gardening, gardening and more. “With my job now,” said Botzik Linn, “I teach groups that I see one time and then don’t see them again. I do miss the people. I miss that connection I had with people in the county.”

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