Shawville 4-H Memories

“I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service and my Health to better living for my club, my community and my country.”

This oath represents the 4-H name and it is said before every 4-H meeting. While the beginnings of 4-H in Canada were in 1913 in Roland, MB, the start of the 4-H in Shawville is less known.

Digging through the Pontiac Archives in Shawville, a showing of the ‘Calf Club’ is noted at the 1939 Shawville Fair. George Pirie of Elmside View Farms, Bristol, confirmed the name was just another way of saying 4-H. He recalled his first showing of a pure Holstein at the fair when he was 12 years old.

“Her name was Peggy,” said Pirie, now in his 70s. “My dad took out the first memberships of Holsteins in all of Canada in 1936.” At that time the fair’s cattle shows took place out of doors, near where Richardson’s Rink used to be, until the early 1960s when they moved inside to the arena as known today. In the 70s the dairy barns on the grounds were expanded by 100 feet. “It was all community built,” he added.

Jerry Barber, owner of Petro Pontiac on Highway 148, Shawville, was the Calf Club’s president in 1968. “Showing at the fair was a good opportunity for many of us; it was a healthy competition,” said Barber who has shown in both the dairy and the beef classes over the years. “Back in those days you either did 4-H or you went to church,” he laughed, recalling in his youth of sleeping overnight in the fairground barns to tend his cattle during the events.

Shawville Lions member James Howard had the opportunity to participate in a 4-H members’ exchange with other youth to Wales in the 1970s. The club went by the name Shawville Young Farmers at the time. “There were more farmers in the area when I was involved, so there were more members then,” he noted of its history.

Rick Younge of Willow Hollow Farms in Clarendon, former fair board president and current board member, has held leadership positions in dairy, beef, steer, and overall during his time with 4-H. “It was mandatory to work the 4-H booth, or you didn’t get your fair pass. 4-H has had an impact on many of us,” he said.

Jennifer Judd can agree to the impact. She spent time in the club through her teen years and met her best friend in the club and that friend – would eventually become her husband. “They even changed the date of the provincial calf rally one year because it conflicted with our wedding date and too many Shawville kids would miss it!” said Judd. “Highlights were training and showing calves, attending events throughout Quebec, making friends we still have to this day.”

The 4-H has been a place to find love for some. Other members noted that Tyler McCann and Scott Stephens met their wives within the club.

Judd remembered, there were the square dancing competitions and they became 1990 champs. She also applied for a scholarship because she was eligible for being in 4-H and received $1000 to help with education.

“I had my hair caught fire one year at the local 4-H booth lighting the stove for the day…no harm done!  These days they hire an adult to do that,” said Judd with a laugh.

Jennifer Davies of the Shawville/Clarendon Library was a member of the 4-H homemakers back in the 80s and has been a 4-H leader more recently.

“A 4-H leader is an adult ‘supervisor’ of sorts to help guide the kids along,” said Davies. “The 4-H motto is ‘Learn to do by doing’ and the members are expected to take leadership in the club with adults along for guidance. The Homemakers don’t exist anymore, but they were the 4-Hers who did crafts, cooking and other such domestic duties. It is now called Lifeskills and but the Shawville club doesn’t focus on them.”

Pontiac Agricultural Society’s president Sara Knox also did time in the 4-H homemakers branch. “I think we had Margaret Hodgins teaching us and we showed at the fair and there was the 4-H banquet,” she said, noting she had been a member for about nine years

“I believe 4-H was really the starting point for the fair board,” continued Knox. “We had an executive and meetings. We were involved in the community. It got me prepared for lots of work and responsibility and coordinated the 4-H booth.” Knox also got to show off some Herefords at the fair.

Nicholas Tubman has been in 4-H for eight years. “My friends were in it and I went a couple times and enjoyed what they did, I joined and learnt a lot of things during the seven years,” he said. He’s showed three steers and showed heifers over that time.

Edward Rusenstrom was a member of 4-H from eight to 21 years old. The experience paid off in a way, as he now works on his own farm. He started in peewee 4-H which Lynn Lang spearheaded many years ago.

“I enjoyed my experiences, all of them good and bad,” he said. “4-H taught me some valuable lessons, responsibility- caring for animals. Service and work ethic- prepping animals for shows, serving burgers at the 4-H booth and helping younger members learn.”

He also was instilled with team work at provincial and national competitions by showing cattle or judging, everyone had to learn to work together. Rusenstrom remembered his highlights from qualifying for the Hayes Classic – a national 4-H show at the Royal – trying to teach Japanese exchange members how to square dance and all the friendships he made all over Quebec and Ontario.

“Over the past 10 years after being too old to be in 4-H, I have volunteered my time to help out being a dairy leader. I would recommend 4H to anyone. My own kids have started being involved with the club now.”

The ages of 4-Hers range from 6 to 25 years old and is open to all town and country-dwellers and want to ‘Learn to do by doing.’

By: Scott Campbell – June 2015