HARVEST HOME OF YESTERYEAR
For those that are new to Old Tennent Church
Old Tennent Harvest Home Dinner started as a strawberry festival n June 23, 1868. As it grew into a Harvest Home the date changed to late August, between the harvesting of the grain and the potatoes, preferably in full moon for the benefit and safety of the horses and buggies. Families were busy a full week ahead with preparations. The men came 2 or 3 days ahead to get the ground ready by hand mowing with long handled scythes. The day preceding the supper a large tent was erected adjacent to what was called "the harvest home building", as some of the foods were prepared there and refrigerated in 'ice boxes'. Many blocks of ice were needed to preserve the food. Seven long tables, each seating twenty-four persons were set up serving 168 people at each of the six or seven settings. Lampposts for kerosene lanterns, the bandstand and bicycle racks were made. At home chickens were killed, scalded, feathers picked, cleaned and cooled ... By Wednesday noon chickens were sliced, the chicken salad and Parker House rolls were made ... were ready to be loaded in a horse drawn carryall along with a half dozen side chairs ... Husbands finished the farm and barn work, then came to help wherever needed or assigned. A dish washing crew worked in the building's kitchen and had barrels of water on hand which was heated on a wood stove ...
In the early 1900's parking was a problem. Horses had to be tied to hitching posts as the horse sheds were soon filled. Dr. Carl Woodward writes of a traffic jam with all the one and two horse rigs: 'There were carriages, surreys, runabouts, buggies with tops up, some down, farm wagons, even market wagons. The few automobiles that arrived were objects of curiosity.' Day's ice cream was sold under the tent ... This was an ice cream of superior quality manufactured by the famous Day's Ice Cream Company of Ocean Grove, NJ. The evening's supply arrived at Tennent, NJ on the 4:30 pm train in large cans packed in tall tubs of salted ice, accompanies by representatives of the firm ... In 1910 the number of suppers exceeded 1,600.
Harvest Homes continued to be a delightful event for the community through the early 1900's and were held until World War II, when regretfully they were canceled.
History of Old Tennent Church
1890-1980 by Hamilton Stillwell
In a letter to Mrs. Charles Wikoff, Jr., dated October 23, 1983, Mrs. Eleanor Craig Hurchinson shared her memories of the Harvest Home:
"The Old Tennent Harvest Home brings a flood of memories as it was a big yearly event when I was a little girl. At that time I believe It was the only special activity of the whole year ... People came from fat and near to attend and partake of a wonderful Harvest Home supper. I think for a few years they served around 1500 or 1600 suppers. Can you imagine? But when I think of the preparations made previous to the event, I can now see it was largely a matter of pre-planning. I remember well how Dad used to load up the old G. M. C. truck and take some of the things Mother thought she must have to get along at her table. She even had a cupboard made to stand near one end of her table, and she made curtains for the cupboard so that flies did not get on her cakes. They took chairs and other needed articles along with many milk cans filled with water. I Assume this was for coffee making as we had excellent water on the farm where I was raised. This all took place in the morning. Then in the afternoon the food would be taken down. The weather was a most important concern for the day, as July can be very hot with threatening thunderstorms always to be considered. However, I do recall a couple of evenings when there was a deluge of rain, which played havoc with most everything. The rain would cause the tent to sag and the men would force the water of the top by long poles. The water would go splashing to the ground.
With the arrival of the band, the pace of the event quickened and lasted until late in the evening. For many years Goodwin's Band from Cranbury supplied the music.
During the band concert, ice cream was served ... In my teen years I always worked in the ice cream section along with several other girls of my age. There was also a stand that sold many kinds of candies. The box chocolates were usually donated by several candy companies. There was also a lemonade stand at which lemonade was made in a large wooden barrel.
The Harvest Home was usually a very successful affair due to the large crowds attending. However, with all of the hard work by the men and women of the congregation I am sure it was also one of the happiest of occasions."