Social gatherings created a sense of community

boots dancing

“There was no grand scheme playing behind our meeting. No violins played, no bells were ringing. We just happened to be born in the same place and time, and our roots were planted deep, like the trees we enjoyed all of our picnics under back in those early days. In no time flat, I couldn’t begin to imagine spending time with any other fellow!”

— Margaret Bitner, 1933 bride

Not long ago, while reminiscing over a couple we’ve long known, I realized the two did not attend the same school, and I asked my mother if she remembered how they met.

“Oh, probably at a square dance. Back then, many people met through 4-H, bordering school events, community club gatherings or square dances.

“Sometimes a big group of us would make plans to meet at the movies, which meant walking to get there or having parents drop us off. Most families only had one car, so even though it might sound sort of funny, that’s how people got to know one another. They didn’t really go out on dates in the same way that your generation did,” my mother explained. She was born in 1934. As a Depression-era baby, entertainment was created, not purchased.

Square dances were the social events that people of all ages looked forward to attending. Even if the thought of square dancing felt like torture, it was the place to go for entertainment and socialization.

Ironic, isn’t it, that as the ease of getting where we want to go has made socializing easier, we as a society seem to gather less than ever. Neighbors once helped one another from birth to the grave with all the joys and sorrows and constant demands; now those living next door barely know each other.

We are too busy, while our lives are blessed with all sorts of conveniences that make the days less demanding.

I think of the families I knew best growing up, and even though daily work was hard, the happiness of just being together lifted the burden. No one had much, but we had each other.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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