A half century ago, perhaps First Methodist Church of Batesville members decided to host a turkey dinner because they had to raise money to pay for an addition (please see box).
The new 74-by-40-foot building included four large classrooms, a choir room, large fellowship hall, boiler room and storage space. In the church building, remodeling took place in the current three basement classrooms, one of which became the church office. The kitchen was enlarged, and a parlor, a chapel with seating for 60, coat room and two restrooms were added.
A special service was held Nov. 17, 1963 to consecrate the new educational unit, The Herald-Tribune reported Oct. 31, 1963. Participants included a bishop’s representative, Pastor Charles Myers, building committee chairman William Greeman, church school superintendent Melvin Yorn and lay leader Richard Lemen. Both choirs sang.
Just like many other Batesville traditions, for 50 years this turkey dinner has been going strong. Organizers are a Batesville trio, three-year leader Barb Nettnay and five-year leaders Steve and Tricia Hutchison. The menu hasn’t deviated: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, cole slaw, cranberry salad, bread, desserts and drinks.
Several advancements are keeping the event fresh. New youth director Jane Turchyn asked, “How can we help?” It was decided each confirmation student would work at the meal side by side with his or her mentor (an admired nonrelated church member). For the first time, the cranberry salad will be prepared at the church instead of homes. Nettnay adds, “We bought a celery cutter this year” to ease the dressing preparation.
Because this dinner is a five-decade milestone, as persons eating in the dining room stand in line, they can read memories of past turkey meals written on – what else? – paper turkeys and posted on the walls.
In the early days, turkeys, cranberry salads and desserts were prepared in members’ homes and carted to the church. Told by Elsie Ritter and Dora Larabee, now dead, “we need some young people,” Virginia Smith was recruited around 1967. “Those ladies knew how to work!” she recalls. “We peeled bushels of potatoes.” She and the late Audrey Rhoads mashed mountains of them with a measly handheld mixer. “My arm hurt like you couldn’t believe.” Members got smart and eventually borrowed a gigantic mixer from the Batesville Community School Corp.