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Hanlon Family Reunion

Malsam Family Reunion enjoys

  We stayed in a motel in nearby South Haven, Michigan, a short 15-minute commute to the lake place of our hosts, Tom and Lavetta Kazda. The Kazdas and a sister lovingly prepared favorite family foods before the reunion: sauerkraut and dumplings, spiced beef, pork loin roast, baked pasta with meat sauce and dozens of homemade gingersnap, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. Everyone loved the food. Perishables were stored in two refrigerators.
  For two days, we ate complimentary breakfasts at our hotel and feasted on one big meal at midday. Between meals, we grabbed leftovers, which simplified food preparation and serving. On the last day, the Kazdas cooked a hearty brunch before everyone departed.
  Reported by Margaret Malsam, Denver, Colorado.

Can you help?
  We received this query from Kathy in Florida and wonder if you have any suggestions for her.
“I have a family reunion in Illinois coming up. Everyone who attends travels some distance. I'm looking for new food ideas that are easy to travel with and fix. I can't count on an outdoor grill at this resort. Can you send me some ideas of food that can travel, be different and good and easy to fix?”
  We responded that we had no recipes specifically that can travel other than sweets and desserts. We suggested she check into catering, carry-out and deli foods. Rather than not counting on an outdoor grill, check and tell them it's important.
  What are your ideas? Email to

Family Reunions Yesterday
by Frances E. Hanson
In earlier days family members may have lived in the same state or county, but they were lucky to see other family members once a year. The choice of transportation was foot, horse and buggy, stagecoach or slow train 'cross country. Twenty or thirty miles was considered a far piece and family gatherings were rare. Many families had loved ones who traveled the Oregon Trail West. Their return visits were cause for huge family celebrations.

Journals and pictures from the early 1880s reveal how such a family reunion was held on a Colorado farmstead "down in the Grove on Willow Creek." The week-long event was so important that neighbors pitched in to ready the Grove and food.

A main cooking fireplace was built. Tent and wagon spaces were staked out so the family could put up tarp-flys and sleep beneath their wagons. The ladies area was built to the south, gents to the north. Lanterns were hung among the trees and a post installed for each camp's lantern. Long tables with benches were fashioned from planks and saw horses, along with blocks of wood for chairs for older family members. Young people sat on brightly colored crazy quilts for their "dinner on the ground." A small platform was constructed for musicians and a dance floor roped off with several lantern posts.

Rooms were prepared for the oldest family members. Horseshoe stakes were set. Burlap sacks were gathered for sack races. Down in the creek under a big cottonwood tree, a hole was boxed in for watermelons. A pasture area was readied for lawn tennis and baseball. Barrel hoops were rounded up for the youngsters to roll and a swing hung in a tall shade tree. A quilting frame was assembled and sat waiting beneath tall shade trees. The icehouse was checked to insure a supply to keep ice cream and drinks cold.

Late in the afternoon and long into the night wagons and buggies were heard arriving. Long before daylight, host family women with women of early arrivals began preparing the afternoon family dinner. Bread dough for dinner rolls, light bread and wheat bread were mixed. Tea cakes were baked. There would be jellied chicken, cold fried chicken, baked chicken, and chicken roasted over the campfire. In addition, the menu included cold baked hams, jellied tongue, pickled salmon, cold veal loaf, green boiled corn, new potatoes fried on a open fire, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumber in vinegar water, camp salad, French and Spanish pickles, tomato preserves, peach and pear sweet pickles, lemon and orange jelly, freshly churned butter, pickled beets and hard boiled eggs. And there were cakes: Minnehaha, Old Fashioned Loaf, Buckeye, Lemon and Sponge. Bowls of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries were set out to nibble on all day. Lemon and strawberry ice cream were cranked out by the gallon. Tall cool glasses of iced tea, iced coffee, lemonade, soda-beer, ginger beer and raspberry vinegar, made the day before, awaited guests.

Baskets were packed for the trip to the Grove. First in were the oil cloths to cover tables. A coarse white flannel bag held extra serving ware and cooking spoons, forks, and sauce dishes. Coffee tied into small bags were tucked inside the tea-pot with "tea papers'; tin boxes of salt, pepper and sugar. A tin of butter was placed in a small bucket and covered with ice, then wrapped in a blanket. The tin water bucket held a bottle of coffee cream and fruit. Remaining baskets were packed with food and one-by-one loaded into wagons for the trip to the Grove where they were placed in order of serving on the long tables.

By noon, the Grove had become a sea of wide-brimmed ribbon and flower bedecked hats and sun bonnets, moving around in calico basque gowns. Long sleeves protected from the sun and insects. The men wore chambray shirts, bibs, denims and alpaca shirts. Little boys ran around in knee britches and straw boaters. Children were rubbed with kerosene to ward off mosquitoes.

The family dinner was laid and a group of nearly 100 did their best to empty the dishes set before them. The afternoon was spent playing games, quilting, hymn singing and story telling. Toward sunset the remaining food was set before those who lingered. Some left to do evening chores but would return for dancing and fiddle playing.

Hanson Family Reunion meal is enjoyed in the Grove. At the close of these family reunions someone photographed the family together. Here they remain, over 100 years later, together in the Grove – standing and sitting around the long tables with happy smiles for the generations to come.

About the author
Frances E. Hanson, the fifth generation of writers in her family, writes a weekly newspaper column for the Casper (WY) Journal. Other writing credits include feature articles, plays, newletters, articles, books, and research work. She has compiled family genealogies, ghost-written three books and is author of three books including An American Treasury of Heirloom Fruitcakes and Puddings, Vol. I, Para Publishing.

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