Looking back: 1965 beef barbecue sets record

Published 11:12 am Friday, May 22, 2015

MAY 22, 1965

Over 1,000 people thronged to the Bronco Rod and Gun Club on Wednesday to devour 1,300 pounds of prime beef. The occasion was the annual beef barbecue sponsored by the Hunterdale Ruritan Club.

People began arriving at the Bronco Club grounds on the shores of the Nottoway River as early as 10 a.m. Many were still on hand to drink the last glass of tea at ten that night.

People were arriving by the carloads. Some were even coming in by boat, hoping to avoid the expected huge amount of traffic.

This year’s beef barbecue marked the third year the Hunterdale Ruritans have put on the hugely popular event.

The idea originated in 1962 when the Hunterdale club sponsored a Southampton County Ruritan outing. This was a “bringing together” of all the various Ruritan Clubs in Southampton County. Over 500 people, all men and mostly Ruritan Club members, attended that affair, that year, held at the Cypress Cove Country Club. Ruritan Club President Dr. Barham Dodson credits Bob Phillips, George Harris and “Farmer” Barham as the prime movers in getting the project established.

Dodson said the 1962 barbecue was so successful that the club decided to do it again in 1963 — this time, as a moneymaking project, with broader community participation. The 1963 barbecue, also held at the Bronco Club, was immediately successful. Seven hundred people attended.

The next year, 1964, attendance grew to over 800 and the Hunterdale Ruritans had a “tiger by the tail” and they did not want to let go. After all the food and associated expenses are paid out for the 1965 event, the club hopes to net about $1,200. Proceeds will be used for civic improvements.

Perhaps one reason the barbecue is so popular is that the Hunterdale Ruritans make sure that everybody gets enough to eat and that the food is of top quality.

This year’s beef cost 89 cents a pound. It was ordered way back last January to insure its timely delivery.

“We have no trouble selling tickets,” Dodson said. “This year we sold more tickets than we wanted to, a month ago.”

Louis Jervey and Joe Hutt headed up the ticket sales committee this year. L. A. McLear handled raffle tickets, a way to bring in additional money. “The raffle brought in about $400 of the net,” Dodson said.

Red Denson was in charge of the huge food outlay. Club members were assigned various duties: cooking, serving, etc. It was understood that they would need to take a day off from their jobs.

What’s ahead next year? “More of the same,” Dodson said. “We don’t want to sell any more tickets than we did this year. If this thing gets any bigger, we’ll lose a lot of the fellowship that goes along with an outing of this sort.”

Dodson added: “The Hunterdale Ruritan Club wants to be sure everybody gets enough to eat. Feeding 1,000 is about as many as we can handle adequately.”

EDITORIAL, by Publisher Hanes Byerly: WELL DONE, Hunterdale Ruritans

The biggest outing this side of the politically oriented Wakefield Shad Planking was held Wednesday afternoon at the Bronco Club. More than 1,000 people from all corners of Southampton County, Franklin and the surrounding area paid $2.25 for a plate of barbecued beef.

Cars were parked over a mile from the picnic area. For some reason, we are not sure just how, the biggest potential traffic jam in the history of Southampton County secondary roads was avoided.

The Hunterdale Ruritan Club provided another outstanding event. Everybody saw everybody and even the threat of rain couldn’t put a damper on the festive mood. Friends saw friends. Old acquaintances were renewed. And, new friendships were established.

Perhaps more meaningful than the “good-time” will be the good that will be realized from the proceeds. The Hunterdale Club will net approximately $1,200. This money is used to help support the local little league baseball program. It helps maintain the beautiful new wayside park on Route 58 between Franklin and Courtland and it will be used for other community improvements.

Next year will bring with it another Hunterdale Ruritan Club beef barbecue and even more funds to aid civic progress. Our congratulations to the 60 members of the Hunterdale Ruritan Club.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net