Historical Society offers two programs

Nathanael Greene on May 1, Deal’s Orchard history on May 3

~by Chuck Offenburger, Greene County Historical Society

The stories of people with two of the most widely-known names in Greene County will be explored Friday, May 1, and Sunday, May 3, when the Greene County Historical Society presents a weekend doubleheader of programs.

Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, the Revolutionary War hero after whom our county is named, will be portrayed by Roger Aegerter – in uniform and in character – on May 1 at the historical group’s regular monthly gathering, this one at St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Churdan.

Then on May 3 at 1:30 pm at the historical museum in Jefferson, Jerald and Cindy Deal will portray themselves as they share the 98-year history of Deal’s Orchard, now involving the fourth generation of their family.

Gen Nathanael Greene, AegerterAegerter, a retired teacher and school administrator from Jefferson, has been executive director of the Historical Society for two years. He has presented as General Greene several times to audiences of all ages. He even rode a bicycle in the Iowa Bicycle Festival parade in 2013, costumed as the general. He uses first-person as he tells the life story of the colonial patriot from Rhode Island who was second-in-command to General George Washington. He also answers questions, as Greene.

At Churdan on Friday, Aegerter will also offer one of his 10-question historical trivia quizzes, this time on the Revolutionary War era. Lunch for $8 will be held at 12 noon, with the free program following at about 1 p.m. RSVPs for lunch should be phoned to community contacts by Wednesday, April 29, or to Mary Weaver at 515-360-8046.

Deals signOn Sunday, May 3, at 1:30 pm at the historical museum in Jefferson, the crowd will learn how Deal’s Orchard has become one of Greene County’s best-known businesses. Tens of thousands of visitors come every year, especially during the fall season when the apples and pumpkins ripen.

But they are a year ’round business, growing vegetables for sale at farmers markets, plus offering Christmas trees, crafts, homemade apple-flavored baked goods, and both apple cider and their new “hard cider.” And in the fall, they operate their “Apple Acres” amusement area, with lots of games and activities.

Frank Deal, who came to Greene County from Illinois, started the orchard as a hobby in 1917, and with help from his sons Forrest and Lynn, began expanding it. In the 1960s, Forrest and his wife Edna took over the business, and in 1973 their son Jerald Deal joined them. He and his wife Cindy Flatt Deal, daughter of the Chevrolet dealer in Jefferson, had just graduated from Iowa State University. Cindy initially taught in the Jefferson schools, then worked at home when she and Jerald started their family. Did they imagine in 1973 they’d be working at the orchard the rest of their careers?

“Yeah, we did, actually,” Jerald said. “Our plan was to come home, eventually take over and be here in Greene County the rest of our lives, and we’ve been happy doing that.” They bought the orchard from Jerald’s parents in late 1986.

There have been challenges. “The 1980s were tougher times,” Jerald said. “From the 1950s to the 1970s, a lot of farmwives worked part time at the orchard – they were a big part of our workforce. But then when we hit the Farm Crisis in the ’80s, a lot of them took permanent jobs off their farms, and that put us in a real labor crunch. We were pulling our hair out trying to find help. And of course, the high interest rates back then affected us, too.”

Cindy remembers that about that same time, “the weather started getting weird.” There were destructive ice storms, followed by horrific, tree-damaging wind storms.

Jerald added that “when we were going through that, I remember asking my mother once, ‘Mom, I just don’t remember having extreme weather like this when I was growing up.’ She said, ‘We didn’t – we had good crops year after year after year in the 1960s and ’70s.’ ”

The Deals’ sons and their wives are all involved in the business at different times of the year – Benjie and Christy, Chris and Tracy, and Rob and Kari.

Deal’s Orchard today is one of the largest in the state, with 45 acres of apple trees producing 25 varieties of apples, and the cider operation producing 30,000 to 35,000 gallons per year.

The Sunday program at the museum and apple-themed refreshments afterward will be free and open to the public.

Two new exhibits will go on display at the museum by the early-May weekend.

One is a new collection of about three dozen local cookbooks, assembled over the decades by churches and organizations. “Part of the fun with these cookbooks is to leaf through and look for familiar names from past generations as well as favorite recipes,” said GCHS president Ces Brunow. She said the society is “still open to donations or loans of more of these cookbooks for the display,” which will continue through the summer.

Another new exhibit will be of the museum’s collection of aprons. “In fact, for the Deal’s Orchard program on May 3, we’d like to invite attendees to wear their favorite aprons,” Brunow said.

Also, with May arriving, the museum will resume its regular “open hours,” which are Saturdays from 9 am to 12 noon and Wednesdays from 1 to 4 pm. They begin May 2.

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