Foresters Hall, Richville, NY
by Doris Hadlock
Most church suppers were held in the old Foresters Hall (in Richville). There were oyster suppers: Dad loved those. And regular suppers. These were superb and usually cost 25 cents for all you could eat. The tables would be loaded with baked beans, escalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, home canned meat, homemade rolls, pickles, pies and cakes.
The kitchen in the Foresters Hall had no water so the men carried milk cans of it up the stairs. What delicious coffee was made by sewing a pound of coffee in a cloth sugar bag and placing it in a wash boiler of water on the wood-burning stove. This was then brought to a boil and boiled good.
In the spring came the jack wax parties. Maple Syrup was boiled to the softball stage and dribbled on the snow. The snow was on the table in large fiat pans and two people shared a pan. The jack wax was rolled up on your fork and eaten. It wasn't much fun for people with bad teeth or dentures. On the table were pickles and doughnuts to go with the jack wax.
Then in June came the ice cream socials. Dad loved lemon home made ice cream. Strawberries were drizzled over the ice cream and crackers, sometimes lemon crackers, served with it. It was served outside if weather permitted.
A very popular thing then was amateur theatricals, several different organizations vying with each other. The Foresters Hall downstairs had a good stage, as most small towns did. There were wings and scenery and a curtain. At the front of the stage was a row of recesses in the floor, which had been lined with tin, or it may have been zinc. In these, kerosene lamps were placed for foot lights.
One time I was singing between the acts and they nearly dropped the curtain on me, frightening Dad, who was very safety minded. I think my voice changed about then, I was twelve. I - never sang alone in public again.
One play I'll never forget. My part was to go upstairs in the Hall where there was a fine pump organ, and to play background music for a love scene. The music was supposed to be coming from a nearby church.
At rehearsal it worked just right. But on the night of the play there was a full house and every chair had been carried downstairs to accommodate the crowd. I finally found one chair with a missing leg. You can imagine what happened when I tried to play, pump the organ and balance on a three-legged chair. I fell, to the consternation on stage and in the audience and to much embarrassment to me.
A professional troupe of actors also came through, and put on better shows. They were usually melodramas like: The Octoroon, Tempest and Sunshine, or East Lynne. I think they were a family called Singer, and they sold all kinds of drug store items too.
This old Foresters Hall served for many dances too, and when movies came in after we got electricity they were shown there. We saw Perils of Pauline and The Trey of Hearts (serials once a week). Of course there was a movie only on Saturday night. The band played first and couples walked around the only complete block there was before going to the movies. A local pianist accompanied the show trying to suit the music to the action.
There were no "facilities" in the old Foresters Hall, where dances were held, and people went to the hotel next door if they "had to go." I was forbidden to leave the hail even a minute, and Dad watched to see that I didn't. The men went to the hotel and came back smelling of Limburger cheese and sen-sens.
The last time I saw the Foresters Hall, it was a disgrace. I guess there's no Foresters anymore either. But when we were there in school, the Hall certainly was used to good purpose.