Thursday, August 9, 2007

Reunion History - Beginnings

"On the 46th wedding anniversary of Bernhard and Petra Nornes, July 8, 1934, the Nornes families met for a reunion at the Nornes home. ... The families enjoyed a picnic dinner at noon. A table was set for the wedding couple and Bendik and Sina Nornes. In the afternoon the men and boys enjoyed a kitten ball game while the ladies visited, compared babies, administered cod liver oil, orange juice, etc.... It was further decided that the head of each family make out a history of his family to be recorded by the Secretary. Also that all grownups pay ten cent dues and children five cents. This would take care of any expenses that might occur."

Thus began the series of family reunions that have continued for 74 years. The families met every summer at a family member's home. Cars were not always so reliable in the Thirties, so in 1939 Maurice Bursheim secured a school bus that he drove with all the Winger families as passengers to the reunion at Bernhard's. Lunch and program committees were appointed during the early years. But the year they met at Hermodsons', Irene and Agnes cooked cream cans full of mashed potatoes and meatballs for the entire group. All events took place outdoors, and they were never rained out until 1953.

In 1954 they began to hold the reunions at the Farmer's Union Camp on Lake Sarah at Erskine, and the meals were potluck. One hundred and three family members attended the first reunion there. The change was necessary because farm kitchens and plumbing were not adequate to take care of the growing numbers. The Camp was an ideal place because it had dormitories where family members could stay overnight. There was an assembly room with a piano, and a large kitchen. Those who stayed overnight enjoyed a pancake breakfast on Sunday morning organized and supervised by George.

Until 1991 the reunions were held on Sunday. They were formally organized with four officers and a treasury. The program opened with the raising of the Norwegian and American flags and singing of the national anthems. Uncle Jacob had presented the family with a Norwegian flag upon his visit here from Norway in 1937. A family member would give devotions or a sermonette, hymns were sung, and family members sang solos or played piano solos. Sometimes the men formed a chorus and sang, sometimes the women. With all the musical talent in the family, there was always someone to perform. The hymn singing was special, with the entire family as a grand choir, Norah accompanying, playing any hymn the group wanted to sing. After a potluck dinner, the men played softball - marrieds against the singles - and women visited. After an afternoon lunch of cake, pie, and ice cream, everyone went home.

In 1939 the organization was in the red. They owed Helmer $2.50. The next year they collected $10.15, paid Helmer back, and spent $6.50 on ice cream. At no time did the treasury hold more than $10 until the late Forties. During the war special collections were taken up to send food packages to the aunts and uncle in Skudeneshavn. In 1947 they voted to send a bedspread as a wedding present to their cousin Conrad Bjornsen in Stavanger.

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