"If you’ve never been to a pie supper at a one-room rural school, there’s a treat in store for you."
I wrote that sentence in 1935 in a journalism class called "The Special Article." Don’t go looking for such a community event today, but let me tell you about the early, rural pie suppers I enjoyed at Carlisle, Carter and Turner schools in our neighborhood in Boone County. Because of transportation convenience, my brother and I attended University Elementary and U-High, but we sometimes visited our friends in the rural school when it was in full swing. Before the annual pie supper, the children cut out or drew black cats, pumpkins or witches on brooms to decorate blackboards, walls and windows.
Most pie suppers were in the fall to make money for extra things during the entire school year. On the day of the event, parents and teachers helped kids clean the school room from top to bottom, inside and out. The whole community was astir; every female was to bring a homemade pie to be sold at auction, and the pies were to be consumed by the cook and the buyer near the end of the evening. Mothers and sisters baked attractive pies with mounds of toasted meringue to attract a bidder’s eye; fruit pies had crisscross designs of pie crust strips. Some tied fancy crepe paper of various colors around the pie or the shallow open box in which it was presented.
After dark, guests arrived at the school house carrying coal oil farm lanterns that went right inside to illuminate the entire school room. It was a small room where a lone teacher educated about two dozen children ages 5 through 14 years. The teacher and the school board president put numbers on the pies, concealing the owners’ names and the paper identifying pie purchasers.
Supposedly the buyers didn’t know which pies belonged to which girls, but the secret got out and a few fellows ended up having to pay a week’s wages to prevent some other fellow from eating with his sweetheart. A wife got upset because her husband let some other hungry man buy her pie.
Of course, the little children were sound asleep by time to cut and eat pies; the kids were awakened while the auctioneer raffled a jar of homemade sour pickles - at a penny per vote - for the "ugliest man in attendance." A stranger with scraggly beard bought a little girl’s pie, and she whimpered until her father got her out of the predicament. Pie eating began, and almost every woman had forgotten to bring a pie-cutting knife and forks for two! Some just picked up the piece of pie, if it was pumpkin, squash or pecan, turned it upside down and ate it out of hand. Many trades were made: a piece of banana for a slice of lemon meringue and so on, but not much pie was left for Sunday’s dinner. A farmer won the guess on how many grains of corn were in a quart fruit jar, and the seed corn was his reward.
The coal oil lanterns were turned low to walk out to where horses had been tied, stomping impatiently as they knew they’d soon be free of the buggy and harness. Parents rounded up kids, and lanterns were extinguished because of the big harvest moon that lighted the way home - at a ready trot.
Oh, yes, the total income for the school was $24.83.