Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 12, 2017 at 8:53 AM by Emily Saveraid

Iowa State College was doing extension work with rural boys and girls before the Extension Service was established in 1906. During the first year of extension in the fall of 1906, corn and livestock judging contests were held in connection with fairs and institutes and with the schools; Clinton County was one of seven counties to conduct judging contests that year with The Clinton Commercial Club and county superintendent of schools playing an important part.

Corn and Poultry Clubs were organized in 1913 and boys club tours were held in all townships. Rope splicing was a popular project and time was spent on tours learning how to splice hay ropes. In 1915 banks of the county subscribed $500 for scholarship prizes for winners in a corn-growing contest. John Turner, Clinton, was the winner and first prize was a trip to the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco. George E. Farrell, County Superintendent of Schools, did considerable work with boys and girls clubs at this early date.

Girls club work in Clinton County was started in 1919 under the direction of Julia E Brekke, Home Demonstration Agent. Clubs at Elwood and Elvira were organized first. Mrs. Charles Coverdale was leader at Elwood and Mrs. George Dralle led the Elvira club.

In 1927 a goal was set to have 5 baby beef clubs and one pig club; 48 boys and girls were enrolled in club work. In 1928 there were 22 boys and 6 girls in baby beef clubs, 5 boys in the market pig club and 8 boys in the purebred gilt club.

There were 4 clubs with 4 leaders, 51 boys and 1 girl in 1933. The clubs were Lost Nation led by Howard Schulz, Grant Township Baby Beef led by Louis Burnett, Brookfield Boys led by Riegel Coverdale, and Miles Baby Beef led by W.R. Witygman.

In 1934 there were 7 clubs and 2 club tours were held that year. The first county Farm Bureau festival and club show was held. The projects included baby beef, dairy, beef heifer, market pig, lamb, corn, colt, farm records, and health.

In the years 1935 to 1939 there were 11 active boys clubs, increasing from 150 members in 1935 to 195 in 1939. During 1942-43, 4-H club activities were reduced due to war activities. 4-H club work progressed from 1944 to 1951 when there were 19 active boys clubs with 395 members. Club work increased to 21 clubs in 1955 with 510 members.

 4-H events initiated in 1950 included the Mother-Daughter Tea and the 4-H Rally Program; in 1952 the 4-H Leaders Recognition Program and Banquet began.

As of 1962, the Clinton County 4-H club program was the largest it have ever been with 48 active clubs in the county-24 boys and 24 girls-with a membership of nearly 1,000.

Over the years many clubs have formed and dissolved, some lasting only a few years: the Brookfield Willing Workers were only active in 1933 and were followed by the Brookfield Working Rosebuds from 1934 to 1935. The Deep Creek Happy Lot was a club for one year, 1934, as was the Delmar Do It All club in 1941, the Bryant Blue Bells in 1940, the Charlotte Gardenettes in 1943, and the Spring Valley Jolly Juniors in 1948. The Washington Active Workers and Olive Happy Go Lucky club were active for two years.

Other clubs have a long running history: Elvira Hi Ho’s 1933-1992, Brookfield Cheerios 1936-1986, the Busy Bodies 1944-1978, Lucky Stars 1945-1982, and Sharonlike 1949-1990. Minnehaha began in 1935, Iowanna  in 1943 and Iowanna Jr. was added in 1971; all are still active today.

Some clubs have long histories but went through name changes. The Fairies originated in 1948, changed their name to Hawkettes in 1976, changed again to Fantastics in 1987, and dissolved in 1994.The Marvelous Maids began in 1950 and changed their name to Live N’ Learn in 1986. The Delmar Debettes began in 1954, changed their name to Delmar Whiz Kids in 1987 and combined with Fantastics in 1990.

The Delwood C&D’s began in 1986 but were a combined club with the Delmar Debbies begun in 1951 and Brookfield Cheerios begun in 1936. The Little Fawn club, 1960, rejoined Minnehaha, and the Sharonettes, 1971-1973, rejoined Sharonlike in 1974. In 1981 The Orange Blossoms, 1955, rejoined Homemakers of Tomorrow, started in 1965.

During the long history of 4 –H clubs in Clinton County there have been some interesting and catchy club names, many that reflect a strong work ethic. More than one club was named Willing Workers, joined by Active Workers , Working Rosebuds, Hustlers, and Busy Bees. Others reflect a good attitude: the Happy Lot of Deep Creek, Olive Happy-Go-Lucky club, the Peppy Pushers of Olive township, DeWitt Jolly Workers, Brookfield Cheerios,  Welton Happy Farmerettes, Goose Lake Merry Makers, the Cheerful Workers of Grant and Olive townships, and the Teeds Grove Happy Workers.

Some clubs just had interesting names such as Bobbin Busters, 1970-1976, Charlotte Loyal Lassies,  1947-1962, and the Spring Valley Sallies which was only active in 1945 The most notable club name was the Semper Fidelis club that existed between 1937 and 1944 in Waterford township.

On May 11, 1981, tragedy struck during a 4-H club meeting when a fiery explosion rocked the farmhouse where the Iowanna Juniors were meeting. Thirty-two people were in the house; 23 of them, many young people, were severely burned or injured. Miraculously, there were no fatalities. There was an amazing outpouring of support within the community for the families affected by the fire; meals were donated for months, fundraisers were held in the community, and a trust fund was set up. Financial support was received from 4-H clubs and individuals all over Iowa and Illinois and from states as far away as Kansas, Indiana, Virginia, Connecticut, Montana, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

In 2002, 4-H celebrated 100 years of lending heads, hearts, hands, and health to its community members and Clinton County was no different.  The youth coordinator at that time, Megan Fuglsang put together information to help us all see what kind of force 4-H had been in our community. She gathered stories from former 4-H members, club record books, and pictures from previous years.  The festivities started on July 4, with an Alumni Reunion breakfast and a float in the hometown parade. Events continued to the fair with an Alumni beef show as well as displays for everyone in the community to see in the 4-H Auditorium.  

As of 2016 there are 14 active clubs in Clinton County with 276 total youth involved: 4-H CREATE,  Art Unlimited, Charlotte Jr. Producers, C-W Jr. Ag, Delmar Hot Shots, DeWitt Hustlers, Equine Fever, Goose Lake Jr. Feeders, Iowanna, Iowanna Jr., Minnehaha, Mohawk, Orange Future Leaders, and Welton Jr. Farmers. There are also 4 Clover Kids clubs that have 126 total members: DeWitt Clover Kids, Charlotte Clover Kids, Cal-Wheat Clover Kids and Low Moor Clover Kids.

4-H has grown over the years to twenty clubs, sixty-four leaders, and around a hundred volunteers.  Clinton County takes pride in all of the events that it offers to its 4-H members from workshops geared toward informing members about their projects to sport tournaments that show team work and club pride.  None of our 4-H success would be possible without the help of all of our volunteers who dedicate their time to make sure that all things are possible for kids through 4-H. 

Alumni Testimonies

Ed Tubbs: “My first awareness of 4-H was in 1933, except for one or possibly two local clubs Clinton County had previously had virtually no 4-H program at all.  The transformation in Clinton County began when M.D. Lacy was hired as County Extension Director.  He immediately started to organize local clubs all over the county.

The first club show was held in 1934, across the street from the Extension Office.  I showed a shorthorn steer, came in second, and then went on to the Mississippi Valley Fair where they held an auction for those who wanted to sell.  My steer sold for seven cents a pound and I had a check for $67.00.  I also had a corn project, which featured the brand new hybrid corn.  In 1934 this was considered a very risky innovation, but we were give a seed sample in a paper sack which out yielded our open pollinated corn by 30 bushels per acre in a very dry season. 

During the first Club Show, we exhibitors slept in the loft of a barn located on the fairgrounds.  Everything in connection with the show was a precedent, but sleeping in the barn was one that did not survive.  Many others did, our club won the first softball tournament, the first livestock judging contest was held, and the first health contest resulted in the Clinton County winner also becoming a state winner. 

I won’t attempt to enumerate the success I had in 4-H over the next seven years. There were many, and there were also many trips to the state fair. The girls also provided an incentive for the boys to stay in 4-H so they could experience the co-ed atmosphere at the Club Show.  I was keenly aware of this.  My special friend was always there, and in 1936 we were both Clinton County Health Champions. Consequently, we spent quite a bit of time together at the state fair, which solidified our relationship considerably.  The net result was 57 years of marriage until I lost her in 1998. I’ve spent a lot of my energy and effort trying to repay 4-H for the role it played in shaping my early life.  Three generations of our family have reaped the benefits of the 4-H program in Clinton County and fourth is not far away.

 I was Livestock Superintendent for the Club Show for many years, and have “gold clover” status several times over with the Iowa 4-H Foundation. As for the Club Show, it has changed.  In the early years it was primarily a beef show with some horses, hogs, dairy and sheep thrown in.  Now I see rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys and many strange breeds of cattle with names I can’t pronounce.  The girls’ exhibits are more recognizable, have changed much less radically. There are more urban kids participating, and beef cattle numbers appear to be down considerably.  The only thing inevitable is change. The 4-H program in Clinton County is no exception, but the Club Show retains its wholesome atmosphere where our kids used to say “We like the Club Show because we can run wild” – one of the few places left where parents can indeed leave kids on their own all day and feel pretty confident they’ll still be around at night. May it ever be so.”

Jana (Petersen) Bliss: When I think of my growing up years, it is all intertwined with 4-H. The projects, camps, trips and all of the friendships gained throughout the years. And of course, don’t forget the annual Club Show and State Fair weeks, which always provided exhausting enjoyment. Now that I am older, I look back on how 4-H helped to shape me into the person I am and the abilities/character I have grown into.

Being in both of the girls and boys DeWitt 4-H clubs, and starting at the age of 9, provided for a very rewarding way to take on responsibilities and try to accomplish those goals that come with 4-H projects. Sewing that first dress with the help of my mom and Grandma, refinishing that small wooden bowl that I still don’t know what to do with, and baking that first cake with many more to come for my dad and brothers were just the beginning. As these types of projects got bigger and more complicated throughout the years, they have continued to be a part of my life with the only restriction now being finding the time to do some of them.

Also, the ownership/caring for the heifer/calves that I showed throughout the years provided for lots of family involvement and at the same time learning business/management skills along with lots of patience in training. The family involvement in showing cattle actually started several generations before me, with my brother’s kids continuing on the tradition by showing claves today. My kids and I enjoy coming home when we can, and attending the State Fair to watch and help out with the family tradition.

As I got older, I got more involved in 4-H and this brought along yearly camps and trips. To me the highlight of them all would probably be the Washington D.D. trip. It was fun, but we were still growing/learning as an individual, and learning important living skills. The opportunity to be a part of the County Council during my senior year, was also a very rewarding and educational experience. I was very fortunate to continue in 4-H during my college years; during the summer months I was able to come back home and work as the 4-H Extension Aid. Working with people in the various clubs, helping plan and orchestrate the various camps and club show, were all very valuable tools/skills that have been very beneficial in my career today.

Thelma Wendel Kerkman, 2002: I joined the Brookfield Township Cheerio 4-H Club in 1938; I was 12 years old. The club met once a month in member’s homes. We usually brought a covered dish if it was an all-day meeting. We learned to give illustrated talks and demonstrations, and kept our record books up to date.

During those times our county was in an 8-year cycle for 4-H projects: 2 years of cooking, 2 years of sewing, 2 years of home furnishing and 2 years of home efficiency. During home furnishing we learned about color wheels, complimentary colors, split compliments and triads. My sister Betty and I sawed our grandmother’s old faded sofa in half, nailed boards on the center for extra feet, then made colorful slip covers for it.  For home efficiency we made spice and utensil racks, put sections in drawers for silverware, and extra shelves in cupboards for dishes.

At the age of 76, I feel I have followed the 4-H Pledge of head, heart, hand and health. I have always tried to “make the best better for my community, my country, and my world.” 4-H helped me change from a bashful girl who grew up on an Iowa farm, to a professional woman with community responsibilities.

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