Aromas Grange #361 was organized on January 13, 1913 with 27 charter members. Meetings in the first few years were held in members’ homes and other places around the town of Aromas, but this eventually became inadequate. On August 20,1921, Grange members voted to build a new meeting hall. Brother H.F. Blohm quickly secured an option to buy a lot, 150X150 feet, near the center of Aromas for $800 from Frank Leigh. Soon thereafter, teams using Fresno scrapers went to work leveling ground and hauling gravel. All of this work was donated.
Grange members were asked to bring in plans for the hall, and only one plan, from Clara Blohm, was submitted. Her plan was accepted and under the leadership of Elmer Snyder, John Winter and George Booth, the actual construction was started. The foundation was laid on November 8, 1921. A low bid of $1758.86 for lumber was accepted from the Homer T. Hayward Company and a bid of $275 for millwork and cabinet work was accepted from C.A. Buckingham. The total cost of the hall was about $6000.
The completed Grange Hall was dedicated on August 19, 1922 with State Grange Master George Harrison as master of ceremonies. An audience of over 250 observed the dedication.
(Fun fact: In 1926, electric street lights came to the small town of Aromas. Unfortunately, they were run on meters and no one wanted to pay for the lights. So for seven years, until 1933, the Aromas Grange paid the electric bill so the streets of Aromas could be lit at night.)
For the next twelve years, Grange members worked hard to pay off the debt of building the hall. They gave card parties, bazaars and rented out the hall for other occasions. Dances, however, were the main means of raising money. Evening dances of the two step, waltz and polka were the most popular. Often the three member orchestra consisted of a lady who played the piano, a man playing the violin and a drummer. In 1930, records show the sum of $1243.62 was taken in from dances and in 1931, during the height of the Depression, $551.06 was received from dances.
By 1932, the construction debt had been reduced to $300. Finally, in February of 1934, Treasurer Lulu Eippe surprised the membership with the announcement that the bank note had been paid in full and the hall was now their very own.
So much has changed since then…
In 2001, the Aromas Grange became one of the first “Action Granges” in California—a new format for the new millennium—and adopted the name Aromas Community Grange. Action Granges were given leeway by the National Grange to forego much of the ritual and formality that was practiced in traditional Granges. Action Granges were given a mandate to create new programs and new approaches that would better serve their local communities, draw in new members and ultimately revitalize the Grange movement.
We took them at their word.
In addition to the Scouts and 4H meetings, the Aromas Community Grange now hosts weekly Yoga and Tai Chi classes, a Knitting/Spinning group, and a concert series. We formed two separate non-profit organizations, the Teressie White Memorial Scholarship Foundation and Neighbors Helping Neighbors, so that our charitable activities could benefit from the 501(c)3 status.
The Aromas Grange also sponsors Town Hall meetings and Candidates Nights to keep people informed about issues of concern, facilitate problem solving at the community level, and encourage people to be active and involved. We feature our own “Aromas Live!” variety shows twice a year to bring people together just for fun and to celebrate the incredible abundance of talent in our little town.
And we look forward to all the good things that lie ahead for our thoughtful and engaged community!