Margarine: the Musical Draws a Full House

Margarine the Musical Draws a Full House to Our Town Hall

About 150 people filled our Town Hall and packed the balcony April 5 for a taste of margarine — Margarine the Musical, that is. Staged by Petersham Grange 95, the performance was filled with century-old songs from Grange sources and with references to contemporary agriculture. The musical numbers were printed in the show program and the audience was invited to sing along with a chorus and cast of nearly 30 voices.

Characters on stage included the devil, played by Alan Bachrach, who drew a laugh when he told Adam and Eve, (Emily Anderson and Tyson Neukirch) that he was readying improved plants including Bishop’s Weed to bring to Petersham and even better ones to come — with genetic modifications for the future. Bishop’s Weed, a pervasive invasive species, was introduced to town decades ago and was enthusiastically shared with neighbors as an effective ground cover by the father of our current Conservation Commission chairman.

The young couple said they had recently left their garden and were seeking land to start a farm. They chose Petersham for its good soil and its “very active” Grange chapter, they said.

Selectman Rik Marsh played an industrialist who promised jobs in the city and improved, mechanized farming techniques with tractors, not horses. A young farmer, played by Chip Pinder, a local draft horse farmer, wondered how farmers would benefit if they borrowed from banks and lost their properties when crop failures prevented them from repaying their loans. Recalling an effort by the Grange to establish a central bank, our local postmaster Abby Sherwood came on stage to deliver mail and assert that the people’s money would be safe with her if the post office became a bank.

Goat farmer Jana Dengler complained that a passing automobile spooked her draft horse which “broke his traces and ran all the way into town.” She said the current speed limit of 10 MPH was much too fast.

Other characters wondered how anyone might imagine farms being turned into factories and said they prefer the natural taste of butter from a dairy to artificial foods like oleo margarine. Hillary Loring brought a gift of wine, bread and oleo to a family table only to be rejected and turned away.

Songs from the early 1900s included “Don’t Mortgage the Farm,” “When 100 Years have Rolled,” and many more. The evening ended with refreshments.

The musical was conceived and written by Ellen Anderson, Grange Lecturer of Petersham Grange No. 95, who has been researching the history of the Grange and the importance of music within the Grange. Grange chapters are focused on agriculture education and on building their communities. The local Grange supports or sponsors a big pumpkin contest, soil testing, the community garden, the Friday Market on the common and the agricultural fair portion of Old Home Day on the last Sunday in August.

Margarine: The Musical

Margarine! The Musical: An Agrarian Melodrama

Tuesday, April 5 – 7:00 p.m.- Petersham Town Hall
Free, all welcome – Refreshments to follow

The Petersham Grange will present an original production, Margarine! The Musical: An Agrarian Melodrama on Tuesday, April 5, at 7:00 p.m. at Petersham Town Hall. The performance is free and all are welcome. The musical skit was conceived and written by Ellen Anderson, Petersham Grange No. 95 Lecturer, who has been researching the history of the Grange and the importance of music within the Grange.

Ellen Anderson is looking for local singers to perform. The musical is sponsored by the Petersham Grange but you do not have to be a Grange member to participate. There will be a few rehearsals. Anyone interested in participating should call Ellen at (978) 724-3537.

The play is set in 1911, just as American agriculture was beginning to change and foods began to be made in factories. Family farmers were especially threatened by the advent of margarine as an alternative to pure dairy butter. The politics of food plays out against a background of conflict over money and increased urbanization. In 1911 the National Grange took positions on all of these topics.

Drama, humor, music, singing, and more fill out this production. Most of the lead roles will be filled by Petersham Grange members with many others in the community lending their talents particularly for the music portions. Roles in the production include the Grange’s Three Graces, Adam and Eve, the serpent, the god Pluto, and farm family members, among others. The song selection includes, Stay on the Farm, The Hand That Holds the Bread, Do Not Mortgage the Farm, The Farmer is The Man,and When a Hundred Years Have Rolled.

Petersham Grange No. 95 was organized in April 1875. The current Petersham Grange membership includes many who have earned 25 and 50 year recognition and including one 80 year member who will have a role in the musical. Founded in 1867 after the Civil War, the Grange is a family, community organization with its roots in agriculture. The Grange, the oldest American agricultural advocacy group, was formed as a national organization with a local focus.

Planning for the 2016 Friday Market

We are planning to open the 2016 Friday Market on June 17 with fresh vendors, fresh crafters and an opportunity for service agencies to host their own information booths at no charge. Hours are 3 to 6 p.m. each Friday through mid-October.

And we are planning another season of live bands on the bandstand.

So set aside your Friday afternoons and mark your calendars. We are coming back, bigger and better than ever.

Be sure to visit the Grange tent at the weekly market for local produce, information about local agriculture, local programs of interest and to take home a membership application.

Citizen Award 2015

The community is invited to Petersham Grange No. 95 as we present the 2015 Citizen Award to Larry Robinson. The presentation is at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5 in the Congregational Church Hall behind the church on North Main Street

Larry, a third-generation lifelong resident of town, worked at the Walter Fernald School for 37 years, retiring in 2008. A founding member of the Petersham Lions Club, he has been active in many town organizations. He is a charter member and a two-time past president of the Lions Club. He is commander of the Petersham Chapter of the American Legion.

Larry has been a member of the Petersham volunteer fire department for 51 years and is the department captain. Larry is a member of the Red Knights International Fire Fighters motorcycle club. He worked for the town Highway Department for eight years and was highway superintendent for four years. He is a former trustee of the Congregational Church and has worked in scouting for many years.

There will be refreshments.

Growing Like a Big Pumpkin

It is a busy summer at Petersham Grange. We are sponsoring a community garden and many of our gardeners are contributing produce for sale at our vendor tent at the town’s Friday Market. Bob Hayward’s new, fresh garlic has been a big hit and Nancy and Roy have been contributing lots of summer squash and cukes.

Our tent at the farmers’ market gives us a good chance to display our Grange banner and talk to folks about joining our Grange. We always set up our tent next to neighbor Jean Day who tempts us every week with delicious baked goodies and right near Sun Kim’s Korean food truck.

On July 4, we took part in our local July 4 parade with a float — and a goat.  Later this month, we are organizing the Agricultural Fair portion of our local Old Home Day with judging of flowers, veggies and crafts and a chili contest that is open to all.

We will also be sending judges out to track the progress of nearly 65 gardeners who signed up for our Big Pumpkin contest. Final results will be determined on Columbus Day.

At our September meeting we will be inducting at least seven new members who have joined our Grange in the last several weeks.