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The Firgrove 4-H Club

By Carl Vest

Until about World War II South Hill was a rural farming community.  Life revolved around agriculture and the establishment and development of farming practices.  So it’s understandable that local youth programs during that period paralleled this general community undertaking.  One way of illustrating this, from the late 1920s to the late 1940s, is to consider the activities of one 4-H club that was established on South Hill in 1929 at the Firgrove School.

The 4-H clubs date from about 1900 and were initially oriented to educating youth in good agricultural practices.  The concept and source of the organization is somewhat obscure but it’s generally accepted that they became a force during the first decade of the twentieth century.

The first meeting of the South Hill 4-H club was on March 9, 1929.  Its initial name was the “Firgrove Potatoe (sic) Raising Club.”  During the second year (1930) it was changed to the “Firgrove Potatoe (sic) and Garden Club.”  The misspelling of potato may have been a ploy to draw attention.

During its first few years the focus was on the practice of raising vegetables and small farm animals. Members participated in Pierce County-wide programs and sent delegates to the Washington State College in Pullman to learn about farming practices.  In 1930 the group took third place in animal judging at the Washington State Fair in Yakima.

In 1931 the association was reorganized into two units --- one involved with animals and the other with vegetables.  State level doings continued and members participated in judging at the Southwest Washington Fair in Chehalis and the Western Washington Fair in Puyallup.  By the mid-1930s the group had established the practice of touring to observe farming practices, judging demonstrations to illustrate animal endorsement and to developing ways to share this knowledge with other 4-H clubs and farming organizations.  They continued these customs for the next two decades.

In 1941 the club took second place at the Spring Rally at Waller Road Grange for its work on “pig care and housing.”  They also participated in Achievement Day at the Fruitland Grange.  In 1942 their own Achievement Day was held in the Firgrove School.

During the war years members started a fire patrol to support the war effort.  They patrolled South Hill every day looking for anything out of the ordinary.  They conversed on local radio about their work and gave presentations at local gatherings.  In 1943 they were declared one of the outstanding 4-H clubs in the state. In the late 1940s they took first place for its skit about farming at the state Rally Day.  The Kiwanis Garden Cup was won in 1949.

The 4-H organization still exists.  Its symbol is the four leaf clover with an H on each pedal.  Each H has a meaning:  Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.  Membership is restricted to young people age five to 21`.  Its motto is, “To make the best better.”  While its mission has changed over the years it still supports youth development in many ways.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.

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