Serving Sauerkraut and Society

October 21, 2010

Ruth Larson, Clara Carpenter, Ruth Swan, Salem Lutheran Ladies Aid, Owossso, Michigan

Owosso Argus Press, October 7, 1988

It’s been said if you gather the women, you can save the world.

I smile at these words.

When I was growing up, it was my grandmother Ruth and all her lady friends that greased the wheels and kept things running. They had time, they had (wo)manpower and they had organizational skills yet to be matched by the opposite gender.

Ruth was a very civic-minded and social woman. As I researched archives from her local newspaper, the Owosso Argus Press, I found story after story of her involvement in church and community activities.

She and George hosted Henderson business meetings at their home.

She served in the Women’s Society of Christian Service of Henderson’s United Methodist Church.

She participated in Salvation Army charitable events.

She was a member of the Ladies Aid of Salem Lutheran Church in nearby Owosso.

Okay. Salem…Ladies Aid…My grandmother.

In my childhood bank of memories, these three are synonymous. I cannot think of one without thinking of the others.

When George and Ruth moved to Henderson in 1946, they joined Salem Church and Ruth immediately joined its Ladies Aid. She was an active member well into her 90s, often serving as president. When she was physically no longer able to attend meetings, she remained an honorary member.

Now, if you’ve spent any time at Salem (or maybe even Owosso, for that matter), there’s something you automatically associate with its Ladies Aid—sauerkraut suppers!

According to this Argus Press article, dated October 7, 1988, Salem’s Ladies Aid has been serving sauerkraut suppers since the early 1920s. The menu at that time included pork and sauerkraut, homemade applesauce, home-pickled beets, mashed potatoes (no instant), breads, relishes, beverages and desserts.

“Preparation of the main attraction begins with volunteers washing the kraut,” the article quotes Ruth, who was the Ladies Aid president. “It’s then boiled at low heat for an hour or so before being transferred to steam tables in the school kitchen, where it steams for an entire day. A little sugar adds seasoning.”

No wonder when I was a kid, the whole school smelled of sauerkraut during those two days of sauerkraut supper!

I was curious how Salem’s Ladies Aid and sauerkraut suppers are doing today, so I called a longtime friend of my mother and step-mother, Carol Hanchett. Carol remembers Salem’s sauerkraut suppers as a child, when her mother Clara Carpenter was involved.

“When I was a girl, sauerkraut suppers were in the church basement. They made sauerkraut from their own cabbage,” says Carol. “Later, they moved it to the school.”

Sadly, Carol says Salem’s ladies haven’t served a sauerkraut supper for the past two years.

“Mainly, because we couldn’t get anyone to put that much time into it,” she says. “The ladies that always did, no longer can and nobody wanted to take it over. We served it for a lot of years, but I guess it’s run its course.”


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