Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 24, 2017 at 9:13 AM by Emily Saveraid

4-H has played an important part in the lives of many youth and adults.  4-H had a simple beginning in Grundy County.  L.W. Plager formed the first Baby Beef Club in 1916 and in 1917 a Market Pig Club was added.  From this simple start, more clubs grew.  The Grundy County 4-H Beef Club has grown from exhibiting 3 calves at the county fair in 1916to nearly 200 on feed in the 1950’s to continued growth in the 1980’s.  In 1917 Minnie Rohwer showed one of the first calves at the International Show in Chicago.

In 1922, a Clothing Club consisting of 18 girls was led by Gladys Smith Holeman. The Palermo Club marked the beginning of girls clubs in Grundy County.  In 1923, four clubs were organized, studying clothing.  Mrs. Harold Brown served as the first girls’ committee chairman with Mrs. F.A. Newell, Mrs. H.C. Schwary, Mrs. E.W. Hasbrouch and Mrs. J.C. Wilson assisting.  Fifty-five girls were enrolled.  In 1923, Florence Synder Gaard was the first girl to the International Show in Chicago.  The original clubs were for farm youth.  Around 1957, the first town girls clubs were formed in Grundy Center and Dike.

4-H’s beginning in the 1920’s included the first Rally Day in 1924.  Ada Hanish won a trip to the Stat Fair for titling the state newsletter the “4-H Club News”.  In 1925, Carroll Plager was the President of the State Boys 4-H.  Gladys Cone Brown won the National Clothing Contest.  In 1929, the first Home Demonstration Agent (forerunner of the Home Economist) arrived in Grundy Center.  The first banquet was held for members and parents with an attendance of 340.  Also in 1925, a Farm Bureau Commission was established to direct and advance the 4-H activities.

In 1930, the girls clubs were studying canning and bread, while the boys clubs consisted of baby beef, dairy heifers, market pigs and purebred sows.  A colt project was added.  There was a total of 400 pints of canned goods at one fair, with 50 of them going on to be displayed at the State Fair.  Five youths were awarded, by Farm Bureau, a trip to the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago for their outstanding club work.  The economic low prices also affected the club projects.  One year money was lost of the 4-H feeders.  The girls’ clothing projects in 1939 consisted of “made-over” garments and making their own undergarments.  By the end of the 1930’s, there were 8 girls clubs with a little over 100 members and 126 boys with 10 girls in farm projects in 5 clubs, reaching all 14 townships in Grundy County.

In 1941, Grundy County 4-h’ers collected 2,000 pounds of aluminum for national defense.  By 142, we had grown to 9 clubs with 122 girls and 183 boys.  In the 145-1946 club year, the county-wide officer’s training school began and continued until the early 1980’s.  In1948 there were 163 girls in11 clubs and 206 boys in 12 clubs.  Mary Jo Mitchell (Voss) won the first County Style Revue, but due to the war, no State Fair was held.  The clubs contributed money to purchase seed for European families.  The first County Awards Banquet was held at the Hemp Mill Café with 400 in attendance. 

The 1950’s began with an enrollment party at the Floyd Morrison farm with 300 in attendance.  In 1952 there were 222 girls in 12 clubs and 243 boys and girls in farm project clubs.  Carol Jarred was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the State Girls 4-H.  Two hundred attended an all-county picnic at the county fairgrounds in her honor.  Four hundred fifty-five attended the awards banquet at Reinbeck.  4-H girls helped purchase coffee urns for the Farm Bureau Building by selling bottles of vanilla and donated 10 cents per girl to purchase cups and glasses.  The 1956 Rally Day had a half mile parade downtown in Grundy Center.  In 1955 the County Extension was given the sole responsibility for the 4-H program.  There were 279 members in 16 girls clubs.  Changes included the end of Rally Day for the girls as they joined with the boys to hold a Rally Night for the purpose of electing their county officers and the girls would add a Mother and Me Tea for the remainder of the Rally Day activities.  A county-wide Junior Member Square Dance and an Older Members Dance were held.  During National 4-H Week, a county Vespers Service was held outdoors with an attendance of 500.  In 1958 the Palermo Clover Club celebrated its 35th Anniversary.  They are still going strong today.  That was also the year Grundy County hosted their first I.F.Y.E. (International Farm Youth Exchange) delegate.  Margaret Boomer, from Ireland, stayed with the Frances Winslow family and Flora Kitzman form Clay Township, was an I.F.Y.E. to Israel for 6 months.  In 1961, Gerald Wheelock was an I.F.Y.E. to Belgium and Marino Pilati, from Italy, stayed in the Frances Persinger home.  Later Harlan Persinger was an I.F.Y.E. delegate. 

The 1960’s included more changes for the 4-H program.  A youth committee was formed, instead of separate girls and boys committees, to plan programs with the 25 clubs.  The Awards Night Program became a banquet to honor state award winners and county awards were given out at Club Booster Nights to try to promote membership.  The new look for girls included the pleated skirt and blouse of pin-striped 4-H material.  The 1962 Boys 4-H Basketball Tournament had 8 junior teams and 8 senior teams with 100 boys playing.  The newly formed Achievement Fund, provided for awards to members, funded an older youth tour to Cedar Rapids and a younger member tour to Waterloo and two $100 scholarships with one-fourth to remain for the following year.  Contributors of $10 or more were given certificates suitable for framing.  In 1966, the Mother and Me Tea changed its format and became an evening and Saturday morning open house for the purpose of viewing the sample fair projects.  The Honorary Initiation was added to the Awards Night program.  The county council took over from the county officers in 1968.  They were responsible for the Awards Night program, the Officers Training School, and a Carnival Fund Raiser.  Over the next several years, the changes also included a 50 member 4-H chorus and the election and installation of the county council at the fair.  We also began the club sales of items to raise funds for the Achievement Fund.  Three hundred attended Awards Night and four hundred and seventy-five attended the 1963 Mom and Me Tea.

In 1972 there were 515 members.  The first 4-H Dog Show was held at the county fair.  It was also the beginning of frequent staff changes due to the changing economy.  In 1973 Grundy County participated in the first Citizenship Trip to Washington, D.C.  Seven youth from Grundy County enjoyed that experience.  Club members also began applying for state awards.  Forty-one club members received awards at the 1974 Awards Night.  We also used the Members Planning and Measurement Forms instead of record books.  In 1975 we added conference judging of Home Economics, Science, Mechanics and Arts areas the County Fair.  This procedure has been well-received and is a good learning experience for the members.  Allen Jensen of Dike was elected to the State 4-H Council.  Melrose Master Minds became the first Coed Club in the county.  In 1978 Mrs. Sandy Engle was selected to the National Leader’s Forum in Washington, D.C.

The 1980’s continued to see changes as we adapt to the decreasing population and economic conditions.  Record books were again receiving the recognition of earlier years.  Two mini-clubs in Grundy were tried for a short time to encourage an increase in membership.  The awards programs were tried in different kinds of formats.  The county council sponsored a Halloween Party for the junior members and friends and youth dances were held.

We continue to see the benefits of 4-H experiences as we run across former members who mention the valuable learning experiences and friendships gained.  We will be strong at those who volunteer as leaders and helpers and continue to look forward to more learning and growth in our future. 

Rally Day

Rally Day began early in the 1920’s.  It was an all-day event where girls elected officers by campaigning and speeches.  The Dress Revue was judged and a Fashion Show presented with a real clover chain on stage.  Members tried out to sing the 4-H Clover Song and to give the 4-H Girls Creed.  Speakers were also present.  In later years, sample fair projects were displayed.  The event was planned by the Girls’ Committee, County Officers and the Home Economist.  In the late 1950’s, it became a joint boys and girls night meeting for the purpose of electing county officers.  Campaigning was done by the clubs.  Eventually only 8 you were selected to run for the four officer positions for boys and girls.  The club campaigning became a Club Yell and the candidates gave brief speeches.  Rally Nigh was no longer held when the county council came into being and members were elected during the fair.

Mother and Me Tea

The tea began in the late 1950’s to replace part of the old Rally Day activities.  The Grooming Revue was presented and guest speakers shared with the group.  The Honorary Initiation of a 4-H friend, recitation of the Girls Creed, leader recognition, sample fair projects along with the presentation of certificates to the club with the most members present and most mothers present were given.  All clubs were assigned a part to make this afternoon special.  It was changed to an open house in 1966 to show ideas for fair.

Leader Recognition

Several forms have been used over the years; with the girls hold theirs separately at the Rally Day and Tea.  Jointly banquets were held in the early years.  They were planned by the county officers and held in various restaurants or the Farm Bureau Building.  In the past few years there have been banquets and also the recognition given at the Awards Program.  Five, 10, 15, 20, 25 etc. year pins for volunteer leaders are still awarded.

Awards Night

This program changes with the needs of the group.  There have been large banquets, night programs, afternoon programs, magicians, camp reports and even fund raiser carnivals have been given to help the attendance.  Local Club Booster Nights were held for a few years to help membership.  Record book awards have been ribbons, money given by special donors, pencils from the Farmers Savings Bank and now ribbons and money.

County Fair

The county fair continues to highlight the end of a successful 4-H year.  The early fairs were held in August.  Demonstrations were given in a tent and later the presentations building. Farm Bureau basement and even the Grundy High School.  Improvements have been made in the buildings and show barns.  The newest building has been very nice for the Home Economics and Creative Visual Arts exhibits. 


4-H uniforms were worn to local 4-H club meetings as well as county and state events.  There have been various styles of uniforms in past years, but there is no “official” 4-H uniform today.  Youth often wear a white shirt or blouse with a clover emblem sewn on the left pocket and a green or dark skirt or pants when doing presentations or attending state or national events. 

Taken out of County 4-H Cook Book 1986




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