Poplar Hill Picnic week is here. Picnic is always the second Saturday in June .It is the week of tidying up both yards and homes, arranging some decorations and getting some treats on hand for visitors that may drop in.The picnic occasion is really old and this year it celebrates it’s 130th anniversary. Originally a day of celebration for school children from all the small one room schools in the township it now continues it’s good natured heritage in a community celebration. Our Lions and other volunteers make it a very special day for everyone. Personally, I think I’ve probably attended every picnic during my lifetime. I grew up knowing that you just always went to the picnic.
It is a thing.
Picnic day is many different things to different people. It represents to me a time honoured family, school and community tradition. It is predictable in many ways and yet has evolved slowly and kept up with the times.
Some memories surface and makes one nostalgic for those long gone people and experiences and yet the picnic restores the resilient spirit within oneself just by being there, each time.
As little kids we prepared for the picnic by practicing marching drills at school for weeks ahead of time. Each one room school would dress up a little bit special and march like our lives depended on it!
Left….. right, left right Left. Left….. right,left, right Left. Left….right, left right Left!
Two of the tallest big kids carried our banner (S.S. #7 Bear Creek ) and our teacher made paper majorette hats with tassels for us to wear . My school, in my era wore white shirts and skorts ( short pleated skirts with shorts) for the girls and the boys cleaned up their act as well.
We were led in the park by the thumping beat of the drums and whirl of bagpipes and circled the flagpole, proudly waiting to be judged on our parade.
Everyone took in the moment as it meant something. We did it every picnic day. It was a thing.
At a signal, the parade march was over and everyone was free to run off to play, run organized races for prizes,watch the baseball games, sit in the grandstand for the baby show, eat popsicles, hot dogs and pie, drink pop and later on enjoy the savage pillow fights and corny talent show.
A rather unique flirting custom was to walk by the covered grandstand in the afternoon with friends and see if any of the good looking boys hiding in the upper level would whip pinecones at you. If you felt the sting of a pinecone you knew love was in the air. Most likely this manner of courtship has been replaced with something less obvious. I wouldn’t know, it’s been awhile but this year I will make an effort to observe carefully and see if this right of passage has survived.
On every picnic day, my mom gave me a plastic change purse with a transparent side panel with some nickles and dimes to spend. Dimes won at the footraces were extra spending money but only given to the top winners so you had to make your cash last for the day. If you bought a double Popsicle with a dime you were wise to break it in half right away and share it with a friend because it would melt anyway and fall wasted to the ground. A good friend shared in return. Things worked out well that way.
Most folks had to return home for farm chores in the late afternoon and had their supper before returning to the park for the final ball game and garden party of entertainment. Usually I was allowed to stay all picnic day with my grandpa, a retired farmer and we shared a community meal with his cronies from the village under the grandstand .
Picnic tables were set end to end and homemade food was shared. I felt very grown up sharing the potato salad, devilled eggs, bolonga sandwiches, pickles and pie with these folks well into their eighties and high nineties. The wooden tables covered with farm house tablecloths, the earth floor underfoot, the white enamelled coffee and tea pots, my Grandpa Walter A., Great Uncle Clayton and Great Aunt Flora, Great Aunt Mae, Old George Barclay and all the rest of the older crowd sharing this good time with a little kid.
Such vivid memories of those people, that time, it’s sweetness. It is a thing.