The gas and electric stoves would only hold 13 roasters of dressing, then made with cornbread. “We would run out of dressing all the time,” Smith complains. The Rev. Charles Flory organized the operation after he arrived in 1977. “We got our tables and chairs and electric roasters.”
His dream was always to sell at least 1,000 dinners, reports Ted Hartshorn, who started volunteering with wife Ginny in about 1966. One year the Methodists served almost 1,200, he says triumphantly. Peak years were probably in the late 1990s, Hartshorn figures.
Smith’s husband, Les, made 4-foot-long wooden paddles. After women broke bread slices up for the dressing several days ahead of time, the cubes were set on sheets in Sunday school rooms. Using paddles, “we would go down there every day to turn that bread” so it would dry out.. Paddles also were used to mix vast quantities of dressing and gravy.
In the dining room, “originally, it was much fancier than it is now.” Instead of a buffet line, servers would bring the food, wearing black skirts, white blouses and aprons, according to Nettnay.
For a time, Connie Miller and her mother, the late Louise Heidt, always did the dressing. “Sandy Dickey and her crew used to cut up how many heads of cabbage, 65?” for freezer slaw, Nettnay remembers. Flory found a food processor that would shred it much quicker. Even better now is buying already shredded cabbage.
According to Smith, the late Oscar Fischmer used to bring in centerpieces from his flower shop. “My husband went to an auction and came home with all these” wicker turkey baskets, which still hold orange napkins, sugar and sweetener.
Who chaired the event? At first, two ladies ran the kitchen, with a third person overseeing the dining room. Ted Hartshorn says later usually about three couples were in charge, rotating in and out, some staying for as long as 20 years. In addition to the Hartshorns, they included Doug and Mona Wilson, Bob and Jane Fitzpatrick, Gary and Jerilyn Budd, Nick and Kay Bailey, Chris and Jerilyn Lowery, Charlie and Elaine Howell, Andy and Temple Gordon and many more.