When the temperatures can sky into the 90s and the cool sunrises can feel so great to be greeted by. we all know it is time for more summer events. One such event that was annual for ages but these days is dwindling in interest more with the younger and busier generation (their words not mine.) is the annual family reunions…
A reunion is a gathering of a group who have been separated so says Webster’s Dictionary. Growing up I can recall at least four such gatherings over the summer. The first one was and still is the Clermont County Benton reunion. This was my mom’s side of her family and more precisely it was Grandpa Benton’s side of the family, but in Clermont it takes in both grandpa and grandma. We gather near the last Sunday of June in a local park and load the tables with fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans and assorted specialties for all of us to enjoy.
Now as the family arrives one by one they are greeted with a warm and welcome “I’m so glad to see you again!” It is a good welcome and opens the day to any and all topics to be talked about. Let me say here that at a Benton reunion conversation is most likely the main course of the event. We all like to hear how all are doing and we all like to talk about it. I know in the generation before me mom and her siblings I think did more talking and less listening but at the days end they went home happy and filled with information and reacquainting with the family that would hold them til the next year.
Next was the Houser reunion. Since my grandpa and his brother Archie both were born on the 4th of July this day was when it was from my earliest memories and long after both had passed away before a reunion faded away. This was a grand day that began in the mid-morning and lasted until after some fireworks were set off along with some homemade ice cream. This was served to eat as we watched the skies light up. This gathering was I felt different as my dad’s family lived almost on all the farms near us or in Moscow or Felicity. So a high attendance just seemed to develop. Of course there was lots of fried chicken, Cole slaw, green beans, scalloped potatoes and many other delicacies presented for us to feast upon and folks we did so and never did we insult a cook. EVER! Sadly this event has moved to the past. We tried to revive it a while back and although all enjoyed it organizing it had become too much of a labor to do so it seems and I can’t really argue that point at all.
Next was the first Sunday in August when mom, dad and family all loaded up the car way before daylight and drove through heavy fog to arrive at the park in Ripley that was across the street from the tobacco ware houses. This was the Patrick reunion and was held for my mother’s family. Alleged relatives came from all over Kentucky and Ohio creating a mass of folks like I had never seen. To accommodate this we had to get to the park early enough to claim the shelter house. This was a big open place with long large tables. I think two on each side and two sides. One side would hold the meal and the other side would hold the deserts. With the shelter house was a large stone laid grill that my dad would fire up the charcoal in and as more relatives arrived they helped in frying eggs and bacon along with homemade cinnamon rolls etc. For us kids there was what we have all agreed to that in those days was a tall long hill in the park with a pine tree the size of a red wood that we would spend the day running to and from. As we grew up the hill and tree shrank or so it seemed. The red wood turned into what might pass for an average sized pine tree on a Christmas tree lot. The day was all day long and there wasn’t a single relative that would surrender and go home early. It was a talk a thon as in my view has yet to ever be matched.
There is one last reunion that I have left for last as it was and to my knowledge is still being held for more than a century and a half. This is the Benton reunion held in Canel City Kentucky on the Caney Creek where all of our or most all of my mom’s family came from. I did attend some of them but it has been years since I have returned. It is a 2 and a half hour drive through the mountainous region of Kentucky near the West Virginia boarder. To go there a person has to really want to go there. My mom and her sisters and parents really wanted to go there and they did.
This reunion begins in the later part of the week and continues through Sunday. The family which is probably safe to say is our family or married into the Benton’s takes over the church and the event is carried out from there. Before the gathering moves forward there is a service to open the event and it begins with an old church hymn. The title tells all that I have been talking about. “Precious Memories” The chorus goes like this. Precious memories how they linger.
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious sacred scenes unfold.
Since I first heard that song and its words the thoughts and what I take away from these events are in my mind forever I guess. Here is a fact about my moms’ family. The Benton’s were born with big and healthy tear ducts and even more when you are happy big ole tears can give you away as they roll down your cheeks. I used to worry about that but as the years are passing along a wet cheek isn’t so bad. All the families I have known and am learning are those precious memories. Enjoy any and all reunions you go to this summer.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.