Childhood Memories Friday: 4-H Congress

1983 4-H Congress

1983 was a big year for me. I graduated from high school. I started college. And in November, I attended 4-H Congress in Chicago.

4-H Congress

The road to 4-H Congress was a long one. I made achievement books — kind of like giant resumes, full of every volunteer hour I’d ever completed, every project I’d ever taken, and more. Photos, an essay, typed charts (of course, everything was typed then. Remember the little strips of correction tape? I went through many of them). I had completed these for several years, hoping to be selected for 4-H Congress. Usually, I made the “honor group,” but had never been a winner. Finally, in my final year of 4-H, it happened: I won in the Home Management category.

I was a little nervous about heading to 4-H Congress. It was held in Chicago, in November, and I would need to miss a couple of days of classes at IU. Now, to the average kid, this might not have been a big deal. But I was the type who never missed a class. I remember giving a small tape recorder to a friend, asking them to tape a journalism lecture class for me.

And after all, after I had worked so hard to get here, I wasn’t about to give up the opportunity. Off I went to Chicago!

Chicago, 1983

I think this was my first trip to Chicago, and I can’t even remember how I got there. But once I arrived, I basked in the glory. I had worked many hours over many years to get here!

4-H Congress 1983

And there I am, in a dress I totally LOVED, in the Hilton Ballroom (I know this since I wrote it on the back, and I am glad I did), at the Home Management Breakfast, hosted by sponsor Beatrice Foods (if you haven’t heard of them, no worries. I see the company was sold, reorganized, and currently the remaining parts are owned by ConAgra). Honestly, I remember very little of this, but I do remember that each of us winners (there was one from each state) received a briefcase with our initials on the buckles. Also, I remember that the speaker at the breakfast was a business guy talking about Tylenol’s reaction to the “Tylenol scare” of 1982, when seven Chicago residents died after taking Tylenol laced with cyanide. Looking back, this speaker and the briefcases seem a bit at odds with us in the audience — the Home Management group was ostensibly a collection of future farm wives/Duggars/Home Ec teachers, etc. But if I felt any cognitive dissonance, I don’t recall it now.

4-H Congress 1983

Water Tower Place, 1983

One evening, we all went shopping at Water Tower Place. I remember my amazement at the escalator lined with poinsettias. These were the early days of the big malls, and I just loved it. It was probably no coincidence that I ended up majoring in retail merchandising, since this was such a formative and wonder-filled experience. I treated myself to a Gunne Sax dress (I’m wearing it here). Not one from a garage sale, not even one I’d made, but a REAL one from Lord and Taylor! All was right in my world.

In the photo at the top, you can see our Indiana delegation in all our finery. My girls sometimes look at photos from my youth and have fun commenting on how ridiculous we all look, before opining that their generation will not experience this. Oh, but just wait …

In case you didn’t locate me, I’m on the front row (finally! I got to be one of the girls sitting in the front row!), second from the right. Of course I packed my favorite clothes for this trip, and this was one such outfit. The red sweater had belonged to my mom when she was my age, and I wore it a lot. Plaid was popular, and that kilt of mine was something I wore over and over and over. The bow at the neck was another fashion staple of the ’80s. I had them in many colors. I had just recently gotten contacts, so fortunately there are no glasses to look outdated.






4 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: 4-H Congress

  1. What a fantastic blog today! I enjoyed reading about your accomplishment of being selected to the 4H Congress. Congratulations!! And the pictures are great. I’ve been to Chicago only once and that was for our senior trip. I cannot remember anything we did or anywhere we went so it must have been uneventful. I have one old picture of me and a couple of girlfriends standing by Lake Michigan. You can’t see our faces because of our hair blowing all around! The windy city!!

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. It was so interesting and heartwarming. Since I would have been out of the country at that time, I don’t remember any details on this before today.

  3. I love it all. I remember Water Tower in those days–very cool VERTICAL Mall. I love your kilt. Totally love it. And, in your honor, when I started writing my new book, Mallory has many vintage Gunny Sack dresses she loves!! Super memory. Just super.

  4. You were spotted in the photo right away by me! Always nice to be in the front row, until you are old and fat and need to hide behind someone else.:) Your clothes were great being in style back in that day! My daughter Julie wore a Gunne Sax dress for her senior picture from HNHS. Look for it the next time you visit me. You did so many neat extra curricular activities back then. I did a few, like Hoosier Girls State comes to mind immediately, along with some 4-H and Indiana Rural Youth activities. It was fun to relive this memory with you, Susan. Always enjoy your blogs!

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