Monday, May 15, found many of Mabel’s octogenarians (80-year-olds), nonagenarians (90-year-olds), and even two centenarians (100-year-olds), gathered in the Mabel Community Center. What brought them to gather there? A gold embossed invitation to once again attend the Golden Age Dinner. Anyone 80 or older was eligible to join the party and enjoy a free dinner.
The two centenarians attending the dinner this year were Irma Johnson and Dorothy Anderson. Irma, who just turned 100 last December, came with her daughter Susie Hahn. Irma commented that she remembers her parents attending the Golden Age Dinner in their later years as well.
Dorothy Anderson, who will be 102 in November, attended with her daughter Karen Forde. Dorothy, who grew up 1½ miles west of Hesper, shared she had been a high school music, English, and drama teacher. After graduating with her degree and teaching for a short time, she married and took time off to raise her family. She returned to teaching in 1961; she taught in western Iowa, Canton, and Mabel. Dorothy said she’s only missed a few of the Golden Age Dinners since she became eligible to attend.
The Golden Age Dinner has been held annually for 26+ years according to Mabel Business Association member Tim Mengis who remembered it being held when he first came to Mabel. Another member of the group commented
that it could be closer to 40 years.
Organizers of the dinner shared that the dinner had only been canceled once, the first year of the COVID pandemic. The second year of the pandemic, take outs and deliveries were offered. In 2022, they returned to an onsite dinner with carryouts available.
According to Mengis, the dinner is held to show appreciation to the older city residents, farmers, and businessmen for their efforts in keeping the city viable.
The menu for the dinner included Swedish meatballs, potatoes and gravy, carrots, buns, cupcakes, nut cups and beverages. Tina Bakke, who formerly had the recently closed BBG’s and now does catering on weekends, catered the meal once again.
The 54 guests waited patiently for the familiar meal they knew they’d enjoy, chatting quietly with old friends. Meadows Assisted Living and Greeley Nursing Home residents were provided transportation so they too could attend.
Long-time friends Sheri Borchering, age 86; Eunice Williams, 89; her sister, Yvonne Goodno, 85; Yvonne’s husband, Roger, 87; and Merle Peterson, age 89 shared a table. When asked what they enjoyed most about the dinner, Sheri said she comes every year and enjoys not having to cook! Yvonne concurred, adding that she loves any chance to go away and socialize as well. Eunice, Roger, and Merle all stressed how much they love the good food!
While most of the attendees lived in Mabel, Jean Eiken and her daughters, Becky Dotzler and Stacy Gridley, must have traveled the farthest. The trio had flown in from Fountain Hill, Ariz., so Jean could see her family and friends again as her daughters had promised she could when she moved to live with them. While visiting Mabel Flowers and Gifts, they were told about the Golden Age Dinner. That serendipitous conversation helped Jean reconnect with many old friends at the dinner.
Pastor Carla Reierson, pastor at Mabel, Scheie, and Henrytown gave a blessing, including a Bible passage, stating that it is “God’s gift that all should eat and drink!’
Meals were served by MBA volunteers — Terry Austin, Carolyn White, Tim Mengis, Marcia Larson, Cathy Peterson, Janet Sanden, and Deb Marsden.
After all had eaten their fill and door prizes were given out, library director Larry Gifford introduced the entertainment. Author Lorna Landvik shared her experiences in writing. Landvik, a Minneapolis native, has been writing all her life. Always a big reader, she loves the power of stories.
Her 13 books do not share characters, but the tone of each is similar — a comic sensibility, in her words. According to her readers, she writes about the community of people. Her 13th book, “Last Circle of Love,” is about a church circle with declining membership. Landvik shared that she never has a theme or an outline when she writes. Her characters and their names just come to mind when she begins a book. She never talks about her books with others as she writes them because that changes the book in her opinion.
Following Landvik’s presentation, the library board served cookies and beverages to anyone who might have a bit of room left for a treat. Soon the guests were headed home with smiling goodbyes to their old friends.
The Mabel Business Association plans on continuing to hold the Golden Age Dinner for years to come. The MBA was organized in 1912, possibly based on a previous group, The Mabel Commercial Club. Goals of the MBA have always been to “advertise the town, provide sociability, and to provide for the general good of the community.” Other activities MBA has supported include Steam Engine Days, Santa coming to town, Christmas holiday decorating contests, Community Night Out, Fall Foliage, welcome baskets to new residents, and much more.
MBA is currently in transition; with fewer businesses left in town, the group is planning on renaming itself. One of the names being considered is “Mabel Area Promoters.” Regardless of their name, this group’s motto will continue to be “to promote the best interest of this community.” The long-running Golden Age Dinner, a wonderful acknowledgement of appreciation of the older residents, certainly lives up to that motto.