AFTER I HOSTED a reunion in Greenbelt and Washington, D.C. for my class from Nazareth School of Nursing, Lexington, Kentucky, we voted to change the date to late September to avoid the steamy August weather. Then another classmate, Dorothy Chwalek (aka D.O.) invited us to her home in Centerville, Iowa for the 1986 reunion. The date was September 27, which was Centerville’s annual Pancake Day.
My original plan was to drive so I could make a brief stop in Chicago to spend a few hours with a seldom-seen cousin, but was unable to get a response from her and decided to make the trip by Amtrack. There was a long boring layover in Chicago, but the rest of the train trip was very enjoyable. I arrived in Ottumwa, Iowa about 7:30 p.m. Thursday and was met by D.O. and her husband, Dick. We had a lovely visit that evening and Friday. Nancy Tipton, Mary Omohundro, Lena Beth Jameson, and Edith Matthews came by plane to Des Moines, rented a car and drove to Centerville, arriving there about 5:00 p.m. Friday.
Centerville is a small town with a population of 6000. It boasts the largest town square in the country, and, until very recently, in the world. For 38 years the town has held an annual festival known as “Pancake Day.” The Pillsbury Company helped to start the tradition when their plant was in Centerville. They still donate pancake mix (the local paper reported that this year’s donation was a ton of mix). Free pancakes and syrup are served to all comers from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. They have a parade, pancake bake-offs, live musical entertainment, foot races, and a beauty contest resulting in the crowning of a Pancake Day Queen.
Saturday morning Lena Beth awakened with a digestive upset, but after lots of TLC she recovered in time to enjoy most of the events of the day. We walked about a block to watch the early morning foot races – a number of prizes were won by members of the Chwalek family. Three children and a granddaughter had come home for the festivities. Daughter Ann was living at home and kept herself busy cooking, serving meals and snacks, and being a model hostess.
We watched the parade, feasted on pancakes and generally had a great time. D.O. sent her family off to a motel, and we had the house to ourselves with hours of quality visiting time. She shared a long newsy letter with us from Carmel Dotson, another classmate. It was almost as good as having her with us. For our reunion meal D.O. took us to a lovely restaurant on a lake. The service left something to be desired, but that didn’t dim the pleasure of sharing a meal, which was very good indeed, and enjoying one another’s company. Again we were lucky enough to have another customer volunteer to take pictures of our group, using a camera from each of us so everyone could have a picture of the occasion.
Sunday morning we took Dick and D.O. to brunch. When I found buffalo burgers on the menu, I had to try it. After brunch, the others drove off to Des Moines and their flight back home. I spent another night and on Monday morning D.O. drove me to Ottumwa and waited with me in the rain until the train arrived about 45 minutes late. The weather was beautiful all weekend, the rain just started at departure time. The layover in Chicago was shorter on the return trip. The train ride was very pleasant and I was enveloped in a warm glow – memories of another weekend with very dear and special friends.
1 cup vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 – ¾ cup water
Mix together and heat to dissolve sugar and salt.
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 large onion
Wash and peel cucumbers, leaving some narrow strips of peel for color if unwaxed. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds with spoon. Cut cucumbers in strips lengthwise, and cut strips into triangles. Cut peppers into strips, and cut strips into triangles (about one inch in size). Cut the onion into chunks, and mix all vegetables together. Pour the vinegar solution over vegetables, refrigerate for 6 hours and serve.
Hand set, printed and published by Leah G. Warner at the Boxwood Press, Greenbelt, MD 20770.