The Associates of Lubbock Christian University, an organization made up of women who share the purpose of uniting Christian women on the South Plains in a genuine spiritual fellowship, support LCU in all her needs, help promote the highest advantages in physical, social, intellectual and spiritual education of every student of LCU and promote a clear understanding of Christian education, held its first meeting on April 29, 1958. One of the very first projects that the organization took part in was to sew curtains for the windows in the cafeteria barracks. By October of that year, according to the LCU website, there were 900 charter members. Many of those original Associates members are still active and have assisted the organization in raising almost $3 million for LCU.
The need for bringing "big money" into the organization back in 1980 has now morphed into the biggest fundraiser that the Associates participate in each year. The group began working and organizing a corn-on-the-cob booth at the South Plains Fair that year and the rest, as they say, is history.
"In 1980 we (the Associates) needed a project that would bring in 'big money' to fund our newest, largest and most needed project for LCU - the renovation of the rest rooms, shower rooms and reception parlor for Johnson Hall, the (men's) residence hall," said Mrs. Jerrye Cope, who was in charge of the fair booth project for 15 years. "We were really desperate because for the very first time all of the officers had to sign personal promissory notes."
On all of the other Associates' projects just the president and the treasurer signed for the entire organization. The Associates had an excellent relationship with the loan officers of Lubbock National Bank, but the bank was purchased by Republic National and they had to have more collateral from the group. Republic also required that they get promissory notes in the amount that was needed - $150,000.00! The Associates were able to get total notes that were signed by friends, families, and members to the tune of $170,000.00. Keep in mind these notes were signed by women, mostly housewives, and many without their husband's knowledge.
It just so happened that the corn-on-the-cob vendor that had worked the South Plains Fair was retiring and there were two choice spaces available (another spot came open as well, later on, to provide three booths). Ruth and Nelson Reinsch, probably accompanied by others according to several members, went to the Texas State Fair and checked out the corn booths there. The Associates voted to tackle this project. Ruth and Nelson, Verna and Guy Goen and Dickie and John Hay were to operate the three booths.
"To make a long story shorter 'we' did everything that we were told to do, including getting the right kind of cooking utensils, brand of corn, butter, napkins, and 'paper' to put the cooked corn on," recalls Mrs. Cope. "And, did we ever discover that this was no 'bed of roses project!!' 'Expert advice' from others did not fit our situation."
Things brightened up for the Associates when Jamie and Chuck Horton went to a fair in Austin and looked over all the booths. They offered to build them at cost in their garage and driveway. These booths were 8' x 8' on all four sides, the lower half was solid wood, the upper half was screen wire, the tarp tops were pointed and held up by an extension curtain rod, the screened sides had tarp curtains that rolled up in the day and rolled and tied down each night ... leaving no shade for the customers, so two lightweight metal pipes were used at each end of each curtain to provide a little protection from the sun. Inside, the floor was the asphalt paving. It didn't take long for the group to break down the corn boxes for some padding and also protection from rain that ran through. Needless to say, the booths got actual floors by the next year.
Mrs. Cope persuaded Lynnita Hufstedler to work with her when the Reinsch, Goen, and Hay couples retired. Lynnita did the entire shift worker scheduling and she came to the grounds at about suppertime each evening to help decide what would be needed to order for the next day. Agnes and Mike Dent took the Hays' booth. Mrs. Cope had good help as Nita & Wade Scott came early and cleaned and set up a booth, including thawing corn and getting the cookers to begin boiling. Mrs. Cope cleaned and set up the other booth and she also waited for the Ben E. Keith (food service) truck to deliver the orders and she distributed supplies. Mrs. Cope and Mrs. Hufstedler met the food salesman each night to put in orders for the next day.
"This was great - the salesman was on the grounds during the day checking to see if all was alright," Mrs. Cope says. "Everything was like clockwork until the salesman got another job and Lynnita retired, all at the same time."
Like all booths at the fair there was always plenty of cleaning to be done. Mrs. Cope recalled one story, in those early years, of a health inspection that was about to take place.
"We were always on pins and needles until the health inspectors came around, especially for the first check when they issued us permits to open," she recalled. "One time our floor was terrible ... I brought several old toothbrushes from home and Bula Anderson and I got down on all fours and scrubbed the seams of the floor covering. We were afraid we would not pass (inspection). To this very day the smell of Clorox makes my knees weak and my nose itch, but as Eugene Fields wrote in one of his poems 'there ain't no flies' or germs in our booth! For some reason the head inspector liked us and for several years she brought others by to see our setup."
Each year some sort of additions and changes were made in each booth. George Davis built the booths that are used now and his wife Molly painted them. Each was designed to fit its location with input from the booth captains and to fit the electrical, water and sewer hookups.
Of course, the financial part of this entire process was a story in itself. The Associates didn't have much money, just like any new business, but they did have enough for change for all four booths (a fourth booth was added in later years).
"The booths were kept open until midnight because we didn't want to miss any sales ... the carnival crews and other booth crews would come by and get six ears or maybe more to take home," said Mrs. Cope. "The Hays' brought the money by at night and the Goens picked it up at eight or sooner each morning. I counted out the change money for each booth, and then I counted out what was left and made out a deposit slip for all that was over. That money was paid the very next morning as soon as the bank opened. Sometimes I had to get change because our prices and the pie booth prices weren't even dollars. I then went to the booths and gave them what they needed. Our loan balance went down every day."
The success of the booth project at the Fair was such that the five-year note that the group had received was paid off in three years. They even held a note burning party, which actually was the first time that some of the husbands found out their wives had signed notes. On advice from former LCU President Harvie Pruitt, the ladies copied each note and the paid receipt. They have the copies of all signed notes, both claimed and unclaimed, in the Associates archives. Since getting that note taken care of, the Associates have not taken on any major (financially anyway) projects since.
Needless to say the success that the Associates have experienced with their South Plains Fair booths (now handling two corn booths and the pie booth - another story for another day, under the current leadership of Hoycille Valentine) has been tremendous. Each year there are more and more volunteers from the campus community - students, faculty, staff - who offer their help in manning the booths.
"This year our association with Student Leadership continues, but has grown," says Associates president, Wanda Dyess. "Roy Worley, LCU's Johnson Hall Resident Director and Apartment Manager, has taken over as the coordinator for one of the corn booths, and student leaders and RA's will continue their role as night shift workers of that booth. They are also taking on the night shift of the other corn booth. We are grateful for all that the students have added to this project over the past few years under Roy & Sunny Park's (Director of Residential Life) leadership."
Jan Ramirez has been the Associates fair booth coordinator the past several years, organizing booth supervisors, supplies, vendors, and assisting Hoycille Valentine and Maxine Ricketson with volunteers.
"We (the Associates) have dropped down to two corn booths instead of three, and we have introduced Mexican Street Corn to the menu," says Mrs. Dyess. "One of the booths sells Mexican Corn-in-a-Cup, and the booth beside the pie booth sells Mexican Corn-on-the-Cob. If you haven't tried it yet, you really need to."
The hard work and many hours of planning and behind-the-scenes duties that go along with preparing for the annual South Plains Fair is something the Associates are very proud of. Mrs. Dyess points out, though, that it could not be done without the help of many others.
"This is our single largest fund-raiser each year, and takes hundreds of volunteer hours," she says. "The Associates could not do it alone, without the LCU Family, church members throughout the area, and of course, our students."
The Panhandle-South Plains Fair continues through Saturday, September 28th. If you get the chance to stop by one of the booths run by the LCU Associates, please do so and remember some of the history behind this fabulous organization.