A tree without roots will fall over. ~unknown
This past Sunday marked the 65th Annual Piper Reunion. The Piper Reunion is always on the third Sunday of July, usually following the Stahlstown Fair. What an event! To help bring in the celebration we had a pig roast this year. Everyone donated towards the pig and as tradition dictates, every family brings a covered dish. However, I remember long ago it was established that every family bring their own picnic lunch. I prefer the covered dish approach so much better, to get a sample of everything. Regardless, we are never without food! There is a spread of main dishes, side dishes and an entire section of desserts. A feast fit for a…Piper!
The Reunion is always held at my cousin Pete and Pat’s house. Again that wasn’t always so. For years we had the Piper Reunion at the Flax Scutching Grounds. My Uncle Ray told my Aunt Connie about the first Piper Reunion, it took place in an orchard up on the ridge. I guess that year, Uncle Ray and bunch of people made tables for the event. Little did they know that, that was going to start a tradition that lasted nearly three quarters of a century, and counting. I’m still trying to uncover a picture taken from the very first reunion. Putting it in perspective, my parents weren’t born yet and my pappy was a younger guy. I’d really like to see the crew that started all this.
Having the reunion in the middle of July, it’s usually hot. This year it rained off and on and was very humid, even up on the ridge where it’s usually ten degrees cooler. The sun did manage to make its appearance allowing us to continue our annual activities of swimming, fishing, driving golf balls, volleyball and horse shoe. On Pete and Pat’s property they have a merry-go-round, a swing set and a few other playground items on the far end of the yard for the kids to play on. Not to mention the trampoline is always hit with the middle aged kids. As far as the younger kids are concerned, throughout the day you could find them turning the sand volleyball court into a sandbox, digging and driving trucks around. The swimming pool is a nice refreshing treat for kids and adults alike. Pete and Pat have an in ground swimming pool with a diving board and a slide. Down over the hill they have a pond for fishing. At the top of the hill, usually the guys get together to drive goal balls. Yep there’s a little something for everyone. When the reunion was held at the Flax Scutching Grounds, the committee members would put together games for the kids to participate in and the adults just sat around and sucked up oxygen. There was a baseball field on the grounds that we would get a game going, sometimes of adults and kids. But that was the extent of the activities.
As Kyle and I pulled in this year, he remembered a few years ago someone hit a golf ball into the back bumper of dad’s truck. Whoever drove the golf ball must have really hit it with such force because, pardon the pun, it left a golf ball size dent in the steel bumper of the truck. I remember the guilty party came forward to claim his accident but dad just laughed and brushed it off. I can’t believe Kyle remembered that!
Throughout the day we sell 50/50 tickets and we have a Chinese Auction. All the money goes back into the Piper Reunion fund, our ‘kiddie’ to help purchase paper products, the port-o-john, the keg of beer, drinks and any other miscellaneous items for the next year. We also give out prizes for the recently married, longest married, oldest man, oldest women, and youngest baby. Sometimes we sell T-shirts, hats and mugs marking an anniversary year. Actually since this was that year, we were going to do have items printed, however everyone was too busy and we ran out of time, maybe for the 70th.
For the 60th anniversary we had a scavenger hunt. It was really a lot of fun. Everyone got a list of items they needed to find and bring to the reunion beforehand. Most families teamed up since there were sixty hard to find items on the list. Mom and I worked together. I believe we were able to uncover fifty-five or fifty-six pieces. Just to give an example of some of the items: an old coke bottle, an old fashion iron, a concert ticket stub, moonshine, and a picture from the very first reunion, which no one was able to dig up. Then on the day of the reunion, a member of The Piper Reunion Committee went around to check to see who had obtained the most items on the list. Actually I think we did place, but I can’t remember. Mom and I both had people at work help us hunt down a few of the items. That was really a lot of fun, even for none family members.
Yep, we have our very own Piper Reunion Committee, which consists of a President, Vice President and a Secretary/Treasurer. They are voted in every two years during the meeting, the day of the reunion. The meeting is called to order after everyone eats and participates in the day’s events. It’s really very informal. The committee members are in charge of the ‘kiddie’ and making decisions for the next reunion, such as printing T-shirts or having a pig roast, which only happens during an anniversary year. They have to administer the invitations, purchase the eating utensils, make sure the signs are put up and taken down on the day of the event, and let’s not forget getting the keg of beer. Last year I missed the reunion because the day before I was moving the keg of beer into mom and dad’s refrigerator in the garage and pulled my back out. I was being too impatient to wait for dad, and we had to get to church. Lesson learned! I missed the Stahlstown fireworks that night and the reunion the following day. The committee members are also responsible for setting up and tearing down tables on the day of the party. All basic stuff, but needs to be delegated to ensure everything gets done. Of course everyone pitches in to make the event a nice time.
I must say, I do look forward to the Piper Reunion. It’s nice to see family members whom I may only get to see once or twice a year, like my Uncle Ray. Usually it’s because of a funeral or a wedding. No fault to anyone, it’s the same story, every gets busy. Uncle Ray, my pappy’s brother is a great guy who’s health is declining, as usually what happens when you’re older than the reunion itself. Although he is still a Piper through and through. Love that! This year he won for oldest guy. Way to go Uncle Ray! In the past, I remember my Aunt Mary took that prize for oldest woman. She died a few years ago at the ripe old age of 93.
There’s always the new generation of kids running around, continuing the cycle of Piper tradition. Most of the Piper’s have always lived on the ridge, but in recent times, a lot have moved away or are so busy we don’t visit like we used to as kids. The reunion usually turns out a couple hundred people, although in recent years the numbers have been dwindling. People move away, get busy and I’m sure the list goes on and on. It really is a nice time and I’m glad that I have been part of such a strong tradition and we’re able to share it with Kyle. The Piper Reunion is a way for Kyle to get to know his extended family. A couple of years ago, we were at the reunion and I told Kyle to go play with his cousins. He looked at me with a very puzzled expression. He didn’t understand that all the kids running around were his cousins. I pointed out that just about everyone here was related in some way. He stopped, looked around at all the people mingling and shooting the breeze. He said in disbelief, “These are all my cousins?” and my mom and I said, “Well yes Kyle, we are at the Piper Reunion.” I guess it never dawned on him. But I think he was in shock over the sheer numbers. To this day, I still don’t think Kyle understands how large our family extends. I hope he always remains apart of the Piper tradition and eventually really gets to know the entire family.