Thursday, June 9, 2011

Home Demonstration History, Montgomery County

Agricultural Extension work began in Montgomery County in 1912 when a county agent was appointed to help improve agricultural conditions by working with farm families. In 1915 some of the “ladies” appealed to the county agent to assist them in getting home demonstration work started in the county. He and some others convinced the County Commissioners to appropriate $100 in February, 1916, to pay for four months of service. The federal government matched the fund and Mrs. Otelia E. Harris was appointed, receiving the salary of $50 a month.

Her principal objective was to interest girls and women in growing vegetables and fruit and conserving them according to correct methods for use at home and in commercial markets. Mrs. Harris traveled with a horse and buggy visiting farm homes. She encouraged girls to grow one-tenth acre gardens and to conserve what was produced in these gardens.

Some of the leading county businesses gave good premiums for superior work, which was a strong incentive. Grocery stores were very cooperative in buying surplus products packed in tin cans. Some of the girls earned enough cash to help pay their expenses in school.

The Home Agent taught the farm women to sew and they made a large number of aprons and caps.  The patterns of the aprons and caps were sent out by the State Home Demonstration Agent, Mrs. Jane S. McKimmon.

In 1917, it became quite popular to attend canning demonstrations, which were considered to be a real social event. Montgomery County’s exhibit of canned goods was considered one of the best at the State Fair in Raleigh. Governor and Mrs. Bickett purchased several jars of school girl’s products and paid a liberal price for them.

In 1918, Miss Lillian Cole served as Home Agent for less than a year because the county appropriation ran out.

In the summer of 1934, Mrs. S. R. Cusick was assigned to Montgomery County to do emergency relief work during the canning season. As a result of the food conservation work and the interest of the women in the Home Demonstration Program, the job became permanent in September. The County Commissioners appropriated $1,000 a year for this work, and the Emergency Agent began working as a full time agent on October 1.

The Emergency Home Agent had the assistance of five paid leaders during the canning season. These leaders were trained at a canning school. The county was divided into areas and a leader was assigned to each area. These leaders reached twenty-three communities, visiting homes and holding group meetings.

When the Home Demonstration work was made permanent, it was easy to organize the county communities into clubs since the people were already accustomed to meeting for canning. Mrs. Cusick organized eleven clubs in the communities. Members report that their dues were 25 cents then, which they felt would be like $20 would be now.

Mrs. Cusick resigned in 1935 and was succeeded by Miss Martha McKinnon, who served until 1970.

In 1936 the County Agricultural Extension Building was built.

By 1940, Miss McKinnon had increased the number of clubs from 11 to 15. The Home Agent’s program included work in the following projects in every organized community of the county:  Home Beautification, Foods and Nutrition, Food Conservation, House Furnishings, Home Management, Home Gardens, Home Poultry, Home Dairy, Parent Education, Health and Recreation. There were eight equipped or partially equipped club rooms in the county and the other seven clubs met in homes.  Early Achievement Days were held in the County Courthouse and members brought canned food products to be judged.

As a result of involvement in Home Demonstration Clubs there was a considerable improvement in the involvement of women in their communities.

During part of this time the Home Agent worked with prisoners at Troy Prison Camp, teaching them how to can. One year they had a terrific crop of beets and the prisoners got “sick” of canning them.

Some of the programs given at Home Demonstration clubs included the following:  How to Iron a Man’s Shirt, How to Make Crack Filler Paste for Hardwood Floors, Making Good Cornbread Better and all facets of homemaking skills such as canning and freezing.

They had ‘good English games’ at every club meeting to help women learn English grammar. To teach Parliamentary Procedure, members participated in skits showing the correct way and the incorrect way to conduct a meeting.

In 1954, Mrs. C. W. (Mary Wright) Martin attended the National Home Demonstration Council meeting in Washington, D. C. She was District President at the time. One of the speakers was Norman Peale and the governor of Maryland introduced him.  She visited the German Embassy and was served white wine and cookies there. The German attaché, Mr. Schlange, borrowed Mrs. Martin’s program to hold while he spoke because he had to have something in his hands when speaking.

Another speaker said “40 years ago Extension work was born. From the time of Christ until 40 years ago less happened than has happened in the last 40 years.” For 17 ½ years after she came to work, Martha McKinnon Harris was the only Home Economics Agent in the county. In 1955 Jean M. Hubbard came to work as Assistant Home Agent. Since that time there have been two agents in the county with Home Economics responsibilities.

In 1970 Martha Harris retired and was succeeded by Ann Yarborough. The Extension Homemakers continued to grow although more women were joining the work force and unable to participate in organized clubs.

In 1972, the Extension Homemakers held their first Tastin’ Party to raise money and publicize the community clubs. The best recipes of Extension Homemaker members across the county were compiled into a cookbook which was sold with samples of each recipe. Tastin’ Parties were also held in 1975 and 1977.

1976 was a very busy year in Montgomery County. A history of Extension Homemakers and a membership list was buried in a Time Capsule in Star. As a community project, the Extension Homemakers began compiling a Resource Directory which was finally printed and distributed to every home in the county in 1979.

During 1976, the Extension Homemakers also furnished a room for Girls’ Haven near Asheboro.  There were a variety of agents in the position which is part home economics and part 4-H.  In 1974 Millie Cherry came to work in this position. In 1976 she married and became Millie C. Bruton. She spends part of her time with programs and leader training sessions for Extension Homemakers in Human Development and Family Resource Management.

In 1977 Ann Yarborough resigned and was succeeded by Susan Carroll. In 1978 she married and became Susan C. Hamilton. She organized two new Extension Homemaker clubs.

In 1979 Mrs. Grace Massey of Star served as District Extension Homemaker President. On March 30,  the Extension Homemakers District Meeting was held at East Montgomery High School in Biscoe.  Mrs. Massey organized the meeting and presided during the day.  The theme was “The Future Is in Our Hands.”  The keynote speaker was Dr. T. C. Blalock, Director of the Agricultural Extension Service. That was he spoke to an Extension Homemaker group as director. During the afternoon, members attended workshops related to family life.

By 1980 there were 123 Extension and Community Association members, as Extension Homemakers were then called.  The last ECA club in Montgomery County disbanded in March of 2008.

Millie C. Bruton retired in December of 2007 after 33 years of service to Extension as the 4-H Youth Development Agent. Susan C. Hamilton retired in February of 2009 after 32 years of service as the Family and Consumer Science Agent (formerly known as Home Demonstration or Economics Agent). 

In August of 2009 Molly Alexi was hired as the County Extension Director. She currently has all the Family and Consumer Science responsibilities as well as Administration and Community and Rural Development. She just hired Haley Napier, an FCS Agent who can help with the many needs families are experiencing and perhaps one day reestablish the Extension and Community Association in Montgomery County. 

From information submitted by Montgomery County Cooperative Extension.

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