Washington State University Extension

A Century of 4-H

4-H Stories

WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Program

Do you have a 4-H story to share? Please email it to us for inclusion on this site.

Joy Wilken from Lincoln County, Washington has been a 4-H leader for the teen program for 12 years, and has heard and witnessed quite a few 4-H stories.  Following is a story her dad, Richard Nolt, wrote about in his book, "When I Was Young."   He (Richard Nolt) grew up in Lodi, Ohio and had quite a bit to share about 4-H in his book.  Joy hadn't realized he had attended National 4-H Congress until her son, Clay Wilken, was going in 1998 and his grandpa told him they were attending 50 years apart. 
Her dad's story included, "I raised a 4-H garden for two years. Then I bought a pure bred Berkshire gilt hog.  They were marked by a black belt around the body.  It was my responsibility to raise it and train it, then show it at the county fair.  Pigs are hard to show because they don't always go where you try to guide them. I raised several pigs and then I raised a young heifer as my 4-H project.  She was much easier to lead at the fair.  Then I enrolled in a 4-H Tractor Maintenance and Leadership Training Project.  We had to drive to Medina for these classes.  My dad bought a '37 Ford Sedan for me to drive.  It was so rusted that the bottom of the doors had holes in them, and so did the floor.  When it rained my feet would get wet.  During my high school years I would work at the root beer stand at the county fair.  We could drink all the root beer we wanted while also earning a few dollars....The summer of my senior year, at the county fair that year my friend John and I did a 4-H demonstration using old baler twine, weaving it into a rope.  We won 1st prize in the county so we got to do it again at State Fair.  We won state, including a trip to National 4-H Congress in Chicago, IL.  It was my first trip anywhere without my parents.  John and I thought we were really big stuff.  Then one evening when we were walking back to our hotel, we were approached by a lady offering us her 'services'. We were very shocked and moved on quickly back to our hotel."

Because a 4-H news reporter wrote an article about their club back in the 1960’s, and it was published in the paper, long time leader became involved in Pierce County 4-H.

I get upset every time I open the News Tribune or the Pierce County Herald and see a close-up picture of someone’s dog or cat with a write-up about how wonderful their pet is!  Don’t get me wrong, I like pets as much as anyone; but I don’t understand how newspapers can use that valuable space for an animal and refuse to print articles submitted to the papers by our 4-H club news reporters about good things that 4-H clubs are doing!

Back in the late l960’s, when Erna Bens was the Farm Editor for the News Tribune I read an article submitted by the club reporter of Valley 4-H Club listing the newly elected officers of the club, with Myra Meeker as the main club leader.  If anyone was interested in Valley 4-H Club, they could contact her at LENOX 7-0130.  As a newlywed who had moved into a fixer-upper house on Lidford Road, I recognized the names of some of the club officers as kids from Riverside Elementary School, where I had been substitute teaching.  As a 10-year 4-H member in Oregon who had attended National 4-H Congress, National 4-H Conference, and been on the IFYE Exchange to the Philippines, I was ready to again be involved in 4-H. 

I called Myra Meeker and discovered she lived on my road.  She made an appointment to meet with me and discuss Valley 4-H.  She even wanted to see some of my knitting when I volunteered to be a knitting project leader for the club.  I soon found out what a dedicated leader Myra was.
Every year Valley 4-H Club put on a community 4-H fair at Riverside Grange Hall.  Valley 4-H Club had purchased 6 acres of property behind the grange by collecting newspapers and recycling them through the years.  The property had some animal pens that could be used for large animals.  There were rotating trophies for the large animal project winners.  Valley 4-H members (including 2 Meeker daughters) made and sold sandwiches in the Grange kitchen, etc.  This fair was usually held the first Saturday in May, which sometimes coincided with Myra’s birthday.  I remember seeing her carry buckets of water from the grange hall to the animals out back.  One winter a storm demolished the animal pens, so we decided to confine the fair to small animals and indoor exhibits.  By that time I had become more active in the club and introduced judging contests for foods, clothing, needlework, arts, gardening, etc.  It was a great practice fair for everyone.

Seeing that the 4-H property behind Riverside Grange was becoming a liability rather than an asset, Myra and I were instrumental in setting up a Valley 4-H Club Advisory Board that administered the sale of that property through the newly formed State 4-H Foundation.  Interest from the proceeds of that sale is used annually by the club for scholarships and campships for its members.  Mary Richen’s daughters Trudy Wargo and Jean Waldherr, Bob and Myra Meeker and I have served on that Advisory Board now for over 30 years.  We’ve added former Valley 4-H members and parents to the board.  Meekers’ granddaughter, Jessica Dunton (a Valley 4-H alumn) is now also on the board.

Through the years, Myra gradually relinquished main club leadership responsibilities to me, but she remains the guiding light who is always behind the scenes of Valley 4-H Club activities.  I remember when a member wanted to have a beef project, Myra had me go with her for a home visit to discuss the responsibilities of such a project with the family to insure that the animal would have adequate pasture and shelter.

Thirty-four years ago, Myra suggested that we should have an annual Valley 4-H Achievement Potluck dinner in November.  We continue that tradition to this day.  Our club has outgrown Riverside Grange Hall, and we now fill Waller Road Grange Hall each November as we distribute end-of-the-year awards to members and leaders and present new members with their membership cards and project materials.

Myra’s rule of no gum chewing during meetings still stands.

A few years ago when a group of 4-H’ers was making jam and jelly in my kitchen, my electric stove died.  I called Myra and asked if we could continue in her kitchen.  We loaded the canner, produce, and equipment into my car and went to her kitchen and finished our food preservation! 

To this day, Myra remains as my mentor.  She’s actively interested in Valley 4-H Club and helps judge the club’s record books annually.  Whenever I get a new idea to try with the club, I ask her advice because I value her wisdom.  I’m sure sometimes she has the feeling that Valley 4-H Club is a runaway freight train; but change can be good, too, and she recognizes that.

It’s often Myra who will call me up and remind me that this is the month that the club should be planning for the Garage Sale.  Or she’ll read something in the County Newsletter and call and ask how we can be involved in it.  Many times she will bring me yarn, fabric, canning jars, or produce that can be used by our club members.

Because a 4-H news reporter wrote an article about their club back in the 1960’s, and it was published in the paper, I became involved in Pierce County 4-H, and a great friendship and mentorship was formed between Myra Meeker and me.  Tonight we recognize Myra for 40 years of faithful volunteer service to Pierce County 4-H.

--submitted by Susan Parr on the eve of Pierce County 4-H Leader's Recognition banquet (Oct. 2008)



WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Program













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