Bridging the years
MILFORD-What began as a group of farm women wanting to get out of the house once a month has turned into nearly60 years of card games, sharing stories and advice, and being there for each other.
The women, all originally from the Terril area in eastern Dickinson County, met at the home of Marge Wollner for their first meeting. They wanted to play bridge, but none of them knew how, so a woman they knew, Evelyn Cook, got them started.
The group includes Wollner, now from Milford; Mary Krieger, of Dickens: Ruth Ann Clark-Scott, from Des Moines; Marge Pedersen, from Spencer; Elaine “Tootie” Mehan, from Milford; Marlene Kelley, from Terril; and Dorothy Determan, from Milford.
The group lost one of its members – Ivy Eick – last December. Other women come to fill in, but so far there has been no permanent replacement for Eick.
They began meeting in the evenings and rotated to each others’ homes to play. When their children were school-aged, they met during the day for noon luncheons.
“We were all young women then,” said Pedersen, “and our kids were all about the same ages.
“For quite a few years we went as couples, and there were eight tables of people playing cards.”
Kreiger and Mehan both had babies after the club began meeting regularly. Now many of the group’s children are in their 60s.
The women said their conversations centered around farm living, helping their husbands on the farm, their children, recipes, sewing and general homemaking, health issues – including measles, mumps and so much more.
“We never gossiped,” said Pedersen.
Clark-Scott said, “We never talked about politics or religion, either.”
Significant historic events of their time discussed over the years included the assassination of John F. Kennedy; Sept. 11, 2001; and when the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated shortly after re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003.
The group was playing cards at Kelley’s home that day.
The women would gather no matter what. Some would come on snowmobiles if they had to.
“Our husbands knew the second Wednesday of the month was bridge day, and they knew better than to plan anything for us,” said Pedersen.
None of the women worked away from home until the farm crisis of the 1980s, when some began working in town.
This was in addition to their responsibilities of feeding threshers, silo fillers, corn shellers and balers, and raising large gardens and preserving what came from them.
They also still helped in the fields and with livestock, and some of the women managed large broods of laying hens – 4,000 at a time – gathering, washing and selling the eggs.
Two of the women lost their husbands over the years, one lost a son and another lost a grandchild and great-grandchild.
“When those things happened, we were all there to support each other,” said Krieger.
The card gatherings became an important part of life. They would schedule appointments around it, and one even refused to stay in the hospital for an extended time because she had to “get to bridge club.”
As women who all used to help their husbands on the farm, they talked about how farming has changed today.
“Everything involves so much technology, and tractors have gotten so big – I couldn’t even get in them anymore,” said Kelley.
Kelley and Krieger remain on the farm today, while others have moved to nearby towns and one moved to Des Moines. But she doesn’t even let the distance stop her from being part of the club.
“I don’t want to lose my friends,” said Clark-Scott, who moved to Des Moines permanently in 1977. “I don’t have a lot of close friends, but I have family in both places, so it makes it easier to go back and forth.”
The group suspends play days from January through March since some members are gone for those winter months. But come April, it’s “go-time.”
The women agreed that they can’t believe the gatherings would last all these years.
“We used to talk about how, when we got older, we’d have to all go to the same nursing home,” said Wollner, as everyone laughed.
Pedersen added, “We’re blessed to still be together at our age.”
The women agreed that they are proud to call themselves farm women.
“Farming was good to us,”said Wollner. “I’m glad we could raise our kids there.”
By Marlene Kelley
1 small package lemon Jell-O
2 1/2 cups boiling water, divided
12 large marshmallows
1 3-ounce package of cream cheese
1 small can crushed pineapple
2 cups whipped topping
1/2 cup salad dressing
1 small package red Jell-O
1 cup cold water
Dissolve lemon gelatin in 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Quarter marshmallows and dissolve in gelatin mixture.
Add cream cheese. (Make sure ingredients are completely dissolved.) Refrigerate until it begins to set.
Fold in pineapple, whipped topping and salad dressing.
Refrigerate until set, preferably overnight. Dissolve red Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water, add cold water, cool and pour over top of salad and let set.
Makes a very large salad.
Savory meat balls
By Elaine “Tootie” Mehan
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup onion
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup oil
1 cup boullion, or water and bay leaf
Combine first six ingredients and shape into meatballs.
Roll in flour and brown in hot oil. Add boullion (or water and bay leaf).
Simmer 20 to 30 minutes and thicken juices for gravy.
Serve over mashed potatoes. Also cooks well in slow cooker for appetizers.
Night-before chicken casserole
By Margery Pedersen
1 3/4 cups uncooked small macaroni
2 cups chicken or turkey
2 cans mushroom or celery soup
1/2 pound American cheese, cut up
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 cups milk (or 1 cup chicken broth and 1 cup milk)
Pimento to taste
Green pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients.
Place in large casserole and let stand overnight. (Or could be made in the morning and let set all day.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/4 hours. Will thicken as it stands.
By Mary Krieger
1 19-inch unbaked pastry shell
8 slices cooked bacon, diced
1/2 pound shredded Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups half and half
3 eggs, beaten
Bake pastry shell at 450 degrees for seven minutes. Remove and lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Place bacon in shell. Add cheese, combine remaining ingredients and pour over cheese.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until almost set in center.
Let cool 25 minutes before serving.
(Note: Krieger said she first served this for the bridge luncheon in 1968.)
Frozen yogurt salad
By Ruth Ann Clark-Scott
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar; mix well.
1 cup drained pineapple
110-ounce package frozen strawberries
2 large bananas
1 large container whipped topping
Freeze in 9-by-13-inch pan. Serves 12.
Texas sheet cake
By Marge Wollner
Bring to boil:
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water
Combine and add:
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
Mix and add:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
Grease and flour large cookie sheet with sides.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
1 stick margarine
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
Melt margarine and add remaining ingredients. Beat and spread on cooled cake.
(Note: Can put nuts on top of the frosting for a decorative look.)
Good rhubarb cake
By Jan Wilson (substitute player in the group)
1 box yellow cake mix, prepared according to directions
4 cups rhubarb
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 small package instant vanilla pudding
2 half-pint containers of whipping cream (Wilson mixes it with the pudding)
Layer in the following order:
Cake, rhubarb, sugar, cream.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until middle is firm.
By Dorothy Determan
2 packages cream cheese (one 8-ounce and one 3-ounce package); softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 8-ounce carton whipped topping
1 graham cracker pie crust
1 21-once can cherry pie filling
Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
Spoon into crust. Top with pie filling. Refrigerate.
Yields 6-8 servings.
By Elaine “Tootie” Mehan
2 cups milk
1 quart vanilla ice cream
2 small packages instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers
1 8-ounce container whipped topping
4 2 ounce Butterfinger bars
Combine milk, ice cream and dry pudding mix in large bowl and beat until well-blended. Place in refrigerator.
Melt butter in saucepan; pour over cracker crumbs in large bowl; stir well.
Pour into 9-by-13-inch pan and pat evenly, reserving 1/3 of mixture for topping.
Pour ice cream mixture over crust. Freeze one hour.
Spread whipped topping over filling. Mix crushed candy bars with reserved crumb mixture.
Sprinkle over top and return to freezer to set.
Garnish with chocolate sauce if desired.
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