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4-H Clubs, 1 2 3, 4-H Clubs for You and ME!

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

Illustration of a 4-H Club meeting (at a table outdoors under the trees) as depicted on the original Boys and Girls Clubs Charter issued by the USDA.

A 4-H Club meeting as depicted on the original Boys and Girls Clubs Charter issued by the USDA.

Almost every 4-H Club meeting I’ve ever attended began like this: After 2-3 taps of a gavel, a teenager says, “I call this meeting to order! Please stand for the pledges to the flags.” Everything else is then drowned out by the scrapping of the chairs being pushed back as the members all stand to recite the American and 4-H Pledges. You could almost put money on it.

My first exposure to 4-H was via a 4-H Club meeting. I’ll never forget walking into the meeting hall upstairs in the Butler Township Fire Station, Drums, Pennsylvania, and seeing a bunch of kids sitting theatre style in the middle of the room, all looking at these four kids sitting at a table in front of them, facing them. Obviously they were doing something in earnest and quite involved, voting and making decisions and discussing topics. What caught my attention, even as an eight year old, was how they were doing all this without input from adults. All the adults, parents and such, were lined along the walls, chatting. I remember at one point the kid at the table banging his gavel and asking the adults to please be quiet so the club could carry on their business! Kids telling adults what to do — unheard of in my young world. Kids being responsible for themselves — I thought it was just GREAT! I wanted IN!

THAT is the essence of 4-H; young people learning to be responsible, to be leaders, and it all starts at the 4-H Club meeting. Of course, Maine youth today can be involved with 4-H in many ways — after-school, in-school, camps — but clubs are still the standard. To learn more about 4-H Clubs in Maine today check out Maine 4-H Clubs and 4-H Spin Clubs.

Indeed, it ALL started with clubs. The 4-H Program, nationally, measures its beginnings by when the first club met. The first club meeting we can document was in 1902, led by A.B. Graham of Ohio, thus we identify 1902 as that first year of 4-H.

Now before we go too much further into this story let me just warn you that this is a rather long post; much longer than they say blog posts should be. And this part here at the beginning, well, I admit it, it is a tad bit boring. But keep reading. I promise, this thing will get better as it goes, and if you do keep pushing through this post, you’ll soon be glad you did. No really. Promise! Anyway, enough for the commercial, now back to the story.

Extension was created as a way for the university to extend its teachings into the communities. Maine’s first Extension Director, Dr. Leon S. Merrill, often pointed out that it was Extension’s job to gather the knowledge gained through university research, Demonstration Farms, and Experiment Stations, and “take these truths out to the farms and set them at work!” Easier said than done when the farmers resisted the new ideas.

However, young people, with less connection to tradition and more interest in performing better at the fair, listened to the new ideas. The Agents found it was more efficient to provide the information to groups rather than individuals so clubs were created. Clubs gave the young people a sense of belonging and played to the natural competitiveness of the young people. And the kids listened and learned and did better, not only better than last year, but better than their PARENTS! NOW the parents wanted to hear these new ideas, too! Clubs were helping Extension get its job done. Sagadahoc Agent Harold Shaw said in his plan for 1915-16 that “in every way possible, steps will be taken to organize Boys’ and Girls’ Agricultural Clubs.”

But in the early days, before a track record of success was established, the club idea was met with resistance. As happened in many places and states, an Aroostook County 4-H Volunteer, Mrs. Harriett Pratt of Macwahoc, noted in 1916, “I found the children ready and willing but the parents strongly opposed.”

So county and state contests and fairs were put on where the young people exhibited their club work and achievements. People began to see there was a value in this thing called Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work. So much so, that Mrs. Pratt was able to report that after just one of these contests, one of her strongest critics was now saying, “I want to see the children try again so that I can encourage them.”

I hate to say it, but war helped. As bad as war is, World War I was a good thing for 4-H. Just as many states, like Maine, were trying to encourage people to let their children join these new clubs, along came the war. Civilians were asked to do their part in winning the war by producing more for themselves so that the food, clothing, and materiel produced commercially could be used to support the soldiers. Growing their own food and making their own clothes is often what 4-H’ers do, especially true through the decade of the 1910s. So young people joined these clubs as a civic duty and membership jumped greatly.

Pounding home the point that Club Work was good for kids and the country didn’t hurt either! Thus page one of the June 1918 edition of the brand new newsletter Echoes from Clubdom (v. 1, #1), Maine’s first statewide 4-H Newsletter, included,

“Didn’t have to be asked. I’m carrying two projects this year.” A short time ago the State Club Leader visited a town in which he organized a club last year after much difficulty. This year one of the boys who had been hard to persuade last season (his parents also objected to give permission for the boy to join the club) greeted the State Worker with the above statement. Moreover, his mother is a club leader this year.

The September 1918 edition (v1, #4) reported “one mother has said, ‘I try to attend every meeting because there I learn so many things I want to know and am ashamed to ask.’”

The March 1919 edition (v. 1, #10), in the first paragraph, asked its readers to “think about the future of club work, to consider what its possibilities are and what it should mean to the communities….” And then it continued with the second paragraph:

The surest guarantee we have that club work is popular and worthwhile is the continued growth that it has enjoyed. Starting in 1914, under rather adverse conditions and with very few persons to support the movement, the club work today has several thousand youths who are waiting and eager to get into the work for 1919 and scores of men and women who stand ready to be Local Leaders again. Not only is this true, but business men and business organizations are ready to do their part to promote a work found to be worthy of their support.

What is the reason for this change in the brief space of five years? There is but one answer to be given and that is that club work has for its one aim to develop the boys and girls of the state…. It is Maine Boys and Girls that we are all aiming to help in any and every way possible; that is why club work has grown so rapidly and is bound hereafter to hold a prominent place.

Well, that and the war, but still.

After the war was over, something needed to be done to keep young people interested in these clubs. More emphasis was placed on the idea of the club, itself. The emblem was in use in Maine by 1915 as was the motto, “To Make the Best Better.” Clubs around the country were kicking around the idea of a 4-H Pledge. The one that became official in 1927 (I pledge my head to clearer thinking…) was introduced to Maine 4-H’ers as a “dandy” pledge from Kansas in 1919 but even as late as 1926 clubs were still creating their own. Here is an offering from 1926, noted in that year’s December issue of Echoes from Clubdom (v9, #6, page 1):

As an earnest club member I dedicate
My hands to honest labor,
My health to useful endeavor,
My head to straight thinking,
My heart to human happiness —
All in devoted loyalty to my club, my community, my State and My Country.

As they say today, “Meh.”

Nationally, to enhance the “sense of club” in addition to the emblem, motto, and pledge, stuff like a 4‑H flag, pins, 4-H colors (green and white), and even uniforms were adopted.

To ensure the educational integrity of the 4-H Club, national standards were developed in 1918. Under these standards, four requirements were suggested to define groups as “official” clubs:

  1. a minimum of five members working on a similar project;
  2. the presence of an adult local leader;
  3. democratically elected appropriate officers; and
  4. the existence of a plan, or program of work, for the year.

In 1919 the Extension Service, United States Department of Agriculture, started issuing CHARTERS to groups that met the four requirements. These charters, although not dated, were signed by the State Club Leader, the State Extension Director, and the Secretary of Agriculture. Then, if it continued to meet these standards, and recorded the following additional accomplishments, the club would receive a National Seal of Achievement to be affixed to their charter annually. Some clubs received their initial Seal with their charter!

To receive a Seal of Achievement the clubs needed to hold at least six meetings during the year (Maine further explained that the Club secretary must keep a record of these meetings as well as the progress of each member), hold an annual exhibit, have a team that performs at least one public demonstration program in the community, attain a 60% project completion rate, and hold an achievement day program. Maine also asked for the club to have a judging team chosen by competition among the members and to hold membership in the farm bureau “or other county club organization.”

State 4-H Leader Ralph P. Mitchell introduced these standards to Maine in 1919. Clarence Day, Extension Editor Emeritus, in a 1957 unpublished report on Extension in Maine from 1910 to 1950, reported that 32 clubs received charters in 1919, four of them also receiving achievement seals. According to Day, the first Maine Club to receive a charter was the Bridgeton Girls’ Cooking and Housekeeping Club, Eva N. Howard, Leader.

Photo of Busy Ants Club of Portage Charter document

Busy Ants Club of Portage Charter

So, although they were not dated when signed, you can tell approximately when they were issued by who signed the thing. For example, if you go and visit Leisa Plissey in the UMaine Extension Aroostook County’s Houlton office, you can see the charter issued to the Busy Ants Club of Portage! It is signed by Secretary of Agriculture Henry C. Wallace, Extension Director Leon S. Merrill, and State 4-H Leader Lester H. Shibles, dating it to 1921-1924. It has 21 interestingly placed Achievement Seals.

Visit Sally Farrell in the UMaine Extension York County office and she’ll show you the charter for the Wells Hustlers 4-H Club. It holds one Seal of Achievement and is signed by Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, Extension Director Arthur L Deering, and State 4-H Leader KC Lovejoy, dating it to between 1935 and 1940.

While in York County, stop by Hazel Goodwin’s place and have a look at the charter issued to the Four Leaf Clover Club of Shapleigh. It’s as old as the charter for the Pioneer Cooking and Housekeeping Club of Machias, which is the next charter to be discussed below. These two charters are similar in that both are signed by the same Secretary of Agriculture and both signatures are so faded they are almost impossible to read. That guy needed better INK!

The difference between the two charters is that the Pioneer Cooking holds two achievement seals; the Four Leaf Clover has over 40 — that’s where I lost count. The Four Leaf Clover Club is still active! Different members but still active — 99 years and counting!

West Gorham Victory 4-H Club Charter.

West Gorham Victory 4-H Club Charter.

Two charters are included in the Page Farm and Home Museum’s 4-H Exhibit.

  • Pioneer Cooking and Housekeeping Club of Machias. The Secretary of Agriculture’s signature may be faded and hard to read, but it is David F. Houston. He served 1913-1920. The other signatories are Extension Director Leon S. Merrill and State 4-H Leader Ralph P. Mitchell, making this charter, along with the Four Leaf Clover Club’s mentioned above, one of the earliest charters received by Maine, probably two of the original 32 issued to Maine in 1919. This one holds two Achievement Seals.
  • West Gorham Victory 4-H Club of West Gorham. This charter is signed by Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, Extension Director Arthur L Deering, and State 4-H Leader KC Lovejoy, dating it to between 1935 and 1940. It holds 32 Achievement seals.
Evelyn Plummer

Evelyn Plummer

Oxford County’s 4-H Agent, Evelyn Plummer, re-affirmed the importance of club work when she said in her first report (1927-28), “The club work is one of the most important projects as it deals with the young people.”

Having the club was one thing. Getting TO club meetings was another! Sometimes it was hard to do! This from the February 1932 issue of the statewide newsletter that succeeded Echoes from Clubdom, Club Echoes (v14, #8, page 6) talks of kids walking. Later on we’ll mention some kids SKIING to their club meeting!

I saw in the (1931) Club Echoes the names of club members…who traveled some distance to attend meetings. Evelyn, Doris and Bernard Currier walk five miles each way to attend the meetings. Barbara E. Witham walked five miles each way part of the time. Donald Jackson walks six miles each way to attend the meetings. Elizabeth Smith walked seven miles each way. …I think that this shows a wonderful spirit in their work. They all seem so interested and come so regularly. Chester E. White, Asst. Leader

To enhance the sense of belonging and loyalty, Clubs were encouraged to create songs and cheers which were, apparently quite loudly, presented during events such as State Club Contest and ESE Camp Vail. In fact, the Penobscot County Farm Bureau News (V8, #7 Oct 1927) suggested, “Better practice up on your club cheers, songs, and state song before coming to the County Contest!”

This song appeared in the February 1932 Club Echoes on page 5:

(sung to the tune of “The Bum Song”)
Written by Mrs. Isa Grindle, Local Leader, Exeter
Sung at County Contest, 1931, by club.

We are the jolly 4-H clubs
We love to work and play
We sew and mend and can and cook
Through all the summer day
We wish to show our parents and friends
That club work is worthwhile
By doing all our club work
With a cheery word and smile.

Come on let’s shout for club work
All the whole year through
Let’s try to make the better best
In everything we do
It’s head and heart and hand and health
That make our club a 4-H Club
None better can you find.

One of the earliest cheers I found (Echoes from Clubdom, v1, #13, June 1919) was the Litchfield club’s cheer:

One two three — who are we?
We are the clover club, don’t you see?
Are we in it? Yes, we are!
Four leaf clover club
RAH RAH RAH!

How about this one from 1925 (Echoes from Clubdom, v8, #2, August 1925):

Gang-way please, gang-way please
Wells Ever-ready club wants to sneeze
Gang-way please, gang-way please
Wells Ever-ready club wants to sneeze
KERCHU!!!!

No, I am not making these up. That’s why I am giving their citations!

How about some County Cheers? Club Echoes, v8, #9, March 1931 reported this county cheer. I bet you can’t guess what county it’s from:

Great big W
Little crook a
Great long L
Without any tail
Humped back D
Little round o
All put together
Spell Waldo.

Perhaps my favorite, if one can have a favorite one of these [used to announce Aroostook County’s presence during the 1931 State 4-H Contest and led by 4-H Cheerleader Alda Cook of Mapleton], might be this one (Club Echoes, v8, #7, January 1931):

Put one O
Put two O
Put three O
Put four O
Put five O
Put six O
Put seven O
Put eight O — AROOSTOOK!

Then, to make sure the reader “got it,” I guess, the editor added in parentheses “(potato).”

Certificate reads: Maine 4-H Clubs (To Make the best Better) This is to certify KATHY ADAMS of CLOVERETTES has completed one or more 4-H club projects during the year 1961 under the direction of the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Maine. [Signed] Russell E. Clark, County Extension Agent; Kenneth C. Lovejoy, State Club Leader; Geo. E. Lord, Director of Extension

Certificate reads: Maine 4-H Clubs (To Make the best Better) This is to certify KATHY ADAMS of CLOVERETTES has completed one or more 4-H club projects during the year 1961 under the direction of the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Maine. [Signed] Russell E. Clark, County Extension Agent; Kenneth C. Lovejoy, State Club Leader; Geo. E. Lord, Director of Extension

And then we have the fun club names. For example, does the Klippity Klop 4-H Club still exist in Sanford? Amanda Chamberlin was a member of that club in 1998. Oxford County 4-H Member Kathy Adams belonged to the Cloverettes 4-H Club in 1961. Here is one of her 4-H Project Completion certificates.

And don’t forget “The Busy Ants Club” mentioned earlier! Maine 4-H’ers have always given their 4-H Clubs FUN names! Take these for example! I’m not going to offer citations for most of them; there are too many. Just know that I found the club names in various reports and newsletters. Furthermore, for the sake of my reputation, I refuse to comment on these club names. You’ll see what I mean.

Group photo of the Lucky Lindy Club on the back of a truck

The original photo caption: “The Lucky Lindy Club of North Saco as they came to the field day.”

How about the Lucky Lindy Club, whose name is found in the York County 4-H Agent’s report of 1928?

Note two things.

  1. The boy in front has a baseball glove. However, he has it on the wrong hand. I’m guessing this was done on purpose given the amusement on the faces of the others in the photo.
  2. There is a 4-H Clover in the rear window of the vehicle to the right of the members, the one with the decorated spare tire.

By the way, I assume “Lucky Lindy” is a reference to the American aviator who made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean on May 20-21, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh. At the time, he was all the rage.

As an aside, Club Echoes reported that in 1931 five girls from the Lucky Lindy’s sewed a box of infants clothing and gave it to the Henrietta D. Goodall Hospital as a community service project. Nice.

Or THIS one, the Work and Win Club, from the Kennebec County 4-H Agent’s report of 1929?

Members of the Work and Win Club, of Sidney visiting the garden of Allen Dyer on their club tour.

The original caption read: “Work and Win Club, of Sidney visiting the garden of Allen Dyer on their club tour.”

I wonder if that’s Allen standing there in the knickers.

Group photo of the Snappy Girls 4 H Club

The Snappy Girls 4 H Club

The word “Snappy” seems to have been popular when naming 4-H Clubs. For instance, Penobscot County’s “The Snappy Girls 4‑H Club” is shown here. The 1930 newsletter failed to identify their town, however, a later edition identifies them as being from East Bangor!

And I also found these “snappy” names:

  • Happy Snappy 4-H Club of Ellsworth
  • Happy Snappy Sewing 4-H Club of Franklin
  • Snappy Six 4-H Club of South Paris
  • “Pleiades Snappy” 4-H Club of Glenburn.

What the heck!? Pleiades? The Seven Sisters?! Huh. Maybe there were only seven girls in the club! But what does “snappy” have to do with it? Oh, sorry. I said I wasn’t going to comment, didn’t I?

How about some more “happy” names, then?

  • Group photo of the Happy Hustlers 4-H Club of Dexter

    Happy Hustlers 4-H Club of Dexter

    From 1937, here is the Happy Hustlers 4-H Club of Dexter!

Huh! I wonder if they knew any of the members of the “Happy Hustlers Girls 4‑H Club from Green Ridge? Or the Happy Hustlers of Denmark? Or the Happy Hustlers of North Freeport? How about we just settle for the Willing Workers of East Belfast?

Yes, “Happy” was a popular choice! Here’s another:

  • Happy Hour 4-H Club of Carmel.

Like I said, I refuse to comment, although I am sorely, sorely, tempted to do so!

No “happy” in the following list, or “willing” or “snappy” for that matter, but names certainly just as entertaining! Ready? Here goes!

  • Whoopie 4-H Club of Palermo, Freda Worthington, President.
  • Better Your Best 4-H Club, Exeter
  • Up and At It 4-H Club of Bagley Hill, Troy
  • Kumjoinus 4-H Club, Southwest Harbor
  • South Brooks Go Getters 4-H Club (whose leader, BTW, reported that four of their girls skied over three miles to attend a meeting to which the newsletter editor added “such letters make life worth living.” See? I told you we’d mention skiing 4-H’ers!)
  • Stic-to-it 4-H Club, Greene
  • So-a-way 4-H Club of Bryant Pond
  • Live Wire 4-H Club, Franklin
  • Big Workers 4-H Club of Atkinson
  • Ever Ready 4-H Club, Levant
  • Clover Leaf 4-H Club of Richville
  • Lucky Clover 4-H Club. I saw a number of these including the one my son belonged to in Maryland!
  • Kozy Korner Sewing 4-H Club (the town wasn’t identified but the leader was! Mrs. A.S. Holden)
  • Rintumditty 4-H Club of West Chapman (whose member, Helen Buck, “never missed a club meeting during the four years in which she has been a member.”)
  • Re-Ly-On-Us 4-H Club of Monmouth

Darn, I wish I could list them all but I can’t so last but not least, from the Farmington State Normal School, comes: EFFESSENNESS 4-H Club.

Ok, I have to comment on this one, too. It took me a while to “get it” but finally I did. Did you? If not, try: F-S-N-S, as in Farmington State Normal School. Pretty crafty, indeed.

See? I told you it’d get better if you just kept reading. Glad you did?

In the 1933 Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup, Groucho Marx’s character, Rufus T. Firefly, speaks this line: “I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it!” In fear of my doing that to you with this blog post, perhaps it is the better part of valor to end this here.

What’s fun about YOUR 4-H Club? Send us a note and perhaps it can be part of a future “4-H Fix”!!

For your November 4-H Fix, we give you “Maine’s 4-H Champions!” Read this CHAMPIONSHIP blog post on November 17.

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