2013-10-18 / Front Page

Grange hall was built to last

North Scarborough Grange celebrating 100th anniversary
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

The North Scarborough Grange Hall has sat on the corner of Saco Street and County Road for more than 100 years offering community members a place to socialize about the affairs of Scarborough.

Although activity has subsided as membership has dwindled, a group of members are working hard to keep the history alive.

The organization was formed in March 1909 after members of the Oak Hill Grange branched out to start their own grange. According to “Images of America: Scarborough,” a photo book written by Rodney Laughton, the reason for starting the North Scarborough location was “because of the long distance to what was the Oak Hill Grange.”

The Oak Hill Grange is now home to Our School, a preschool and pre-kindergarten program that started in South Portland in 1980.

The North Scarborough Grange began with 40 members, who met in a church that was located at what is now a gas station on the corner of Saco Street and County Road. Although the group quickly outgrew the space, the biggest concern was a place to house horses on cold nights.

On Nov. 4, 1911, grange members voted to purchase the County Road property for $60. Two weeks later they voted to construct a stable on the site. That decision was quickly rescinded and in December, they decided to build a grange hall for $1,251.

Barbara Griffin, who has been a member of the grange since 1943, is leading the effort in preserving both the organization’s history and its physical building at 74 County Road.

Earlier this month, the Scarborough Town Council passed a resolution honoring the organization’s century of service.

The resolution, which passed unanimously, praised the grange for aiding people “both in and out of the Order, to reach their full potential as leaders and people, “strengthening the social connection through a multitude of activities over the years” and planning efforts that have “immeasurably benefited the local community and area as a whole.”

Grandmaster Stanley Douglas said the grange has served as a great social opportunity over the years.

“It’s been a place for friendship and getting to know each other and getting a chance to talk about local things and agriculture because that is what the grange is all about,” said Douglas, who has been a grange member since 1977.

Ahlquist said as grange halls in Scarborough have disappeared, the North Scarborough hall has continued to operate. Griffin said today, the grange has 33 members, including Warren Knight and Rebecca Knight Lilley, who just joined the organization in September.

“I think at one time, we had five granges in Scarborough. We had one in each neighborhood almost. Over the years, as they have dwindled, the North Scarborough Grange has stood pretty firm,” Ahlquist said.

At the Oct.2 Town Council meeting, Councilor Judy Roy noted Griffin and the role she played in “keeping the grange as active as it could be in the changing times.”

“Without Barbara Griffin, I think the grange would probably have stopped many years ago, but she worked tirelessly to still provide what the Grange could do with the smaller number they have today,” Roy said after reading a resolution honoring the organization for its long history in Scarborough.

Following in the footsteps of her grandparents and her parents, Griffin got involved in the grange at 14 years old and has held the keys to the building since 1948.

“That was it. It was the only place in the neighborhood to go to,” Griffin said.

Over the years, the grange has hosted countless community meals, square dancing and theatrical shows. The group has also exhibited vegetables, jams, jellies and craft items at the Cumberland Fair and Fryeburg Fair.

“There were some great events that people looked forward to,” Griffin said as she looked through historical photographs and paperwork.

Doing so, Griffin said, brings back many memories.

“I’ve got so many memories here. So many of the people I worked with are gone now. They were great, great people. Even today, there are some great people I work with,” Griffin said. “This has been a big part of my life. I’ve spent as much time here as I have at home.”

One such event that Griffin fondly recalls was the World’s Fair,s which were held between the 1930s and 1950s.

Griffin said the event, which was held on the first Wednesday of October, included horse pulling, as well as show animals and food and crafts displays. A community lunch was held at noon and the event concluded in the evening with a public dance.

World’s Fairs lasted until the onset of World War II, when they, like other events, were canceled. They started back up in 1941, but again ended in the 1950s, Griffin said.

The grange has, perhaps, been best known over the years for its bean suppers, a “big money maker” for the grange. The suppers, Griffin said, began in 1964 and in their heyday, the grange was hosting them once a month January through November.

“The lines would be out the door and down to the road sometimes,” Griffin said of the suppers, which served as fundraisers for the hall. “It can still happen now, but we don’t have the suppers as much anymore.”

“Growing up in Scarborough, the grange was a big part of my childhood. Now that I am older, I think the bean suppers are legendary and terrific,” Ahlquist said.

Those suppers, however, are becoming few and far between. In fact, Griffin said, the North Scarborough Grange has not put on a bean supper in close to 10 years, but has offered its hall for other organizations to hold bean suppers of their own.

Last weekend, Douglas said, the Scarborough Historical Society held a supper at the grange.

Griffin said in recent years, the grange has opened its doors to the Saco Valley Fiber Artists craft show, an annual event in November that highlights local fiber artists. On Nov. 2, the grange will hold an indoor yard sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Later this month the grange will host Westbrook City Band’s October Harvest Supper. The band, established in 1884, has held annual banquets/concerts at the grange for more than 50 years.

A number of other organizations, Douglas said, have rented the hall through the end of the year.

“It’s been a real pleasure and a joy,” Griffin said. “I wouldn’t ask for it to be any different than it has been because it’s been a great journey.”

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