Kallus Reunion 2011

My mother's maiden name is Kallus and the family's reunion is one that we go to every year.  It's always within a few days of my birthday. (My partner thinks I have a family reunion every weekend, but it's actually four a year... Kallus, Morkovsky, Orsak and Zielonka.) Until last year, the Kallus reunion had been held for decades (literally since the 30s, I think) at the Wied Hall in, you guessed it, Wied, a teeny tiny community between Hallettsville and Shiner in Lavaca County. My great grandfather Kallus lived in Wied and owned a general store and post office in the early part of the 20th century. The story is that he and other families in the area pooled their money to build the hall so their daughters wouldn't have to go far for a dance. He donated the land, though the hall was actually moved across Alt. Highway90 at some point. It's an enigmatic old hall and I've always loved being there. It deserves a blog post on its own.

Last year the host family moved the reunion to St. Mary's church hall in, you guessed it, St. Mary's.... another tiny community near Hallettsville. This year our family followed suit and I heard that next year's host family has already reserved it, too. 

Interior of the church hall in St. Mary's before everyone arrived.
I guess air conditioning in early October in Texas makes a really big difference to people (the Wied hall has never had it.) The usual attendees are getting older and older and I'm sure that has something to do with the move. I'm ashamed to say that I have 24 first cousins and three siblings and only 4 of us went to the reunion this year. That's a pretty poor showing. So few members of my generation coupled with the fact that the reunion was not where it's been for the last 44 years of my life made the event a little surreal and a little sad.

The food was mostly your standard white people's reunion-in-Texas offerings... lots of macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fried chicken, rice casseroles with the usual nod to Czech-ness with sausage and bakery-bought cheese and poppyseed rolls. No revelations or "a-ha!" moments. The highlights were a homemade apple strudel and homemade sweet and sour pickles. The oddball veggie tray with hummus and FRESH green beans were very welcome by yours truly who is eating as a vegetarian this month. (Thanks Bo and Jerrica!) 

For years and years, I've been taking a notebook to reunions and walking the length of the food tables writing down every dish for posterity. This year, I decided to put a sheet at the sign-in table that said across the top "Please Tell Us What Dish You Brought." Most people wrote their dishes down dutifully after signing in and writing their name tag. I like to see the last names... Kallus, of course, Mladenka, Pesek, Rebicek, Belicek, Janak, Netardus, Klekar. Yes, I'm from a Czech family. But people didn't give me enough detail about what they brought for me to trust them with the task, writing "cake" instead of poppyseed cake, for example. So I'll have to go back to eyeballing dishes myself and then searching out the makers of the interesting ones, like a culinary stalker.

Of course, some things never change at the reunions. Small boys will gravitate toward each other even if they can't remember the last time they met.  They will throw toys on to the roof of the outdoor pavilion; they will get dusty and sweaty; they will sit under the dessert table and make themselves sick on cookies; they will try and scare the cows in the field next to the hall. (I actually grabbed the electric fence surrounding the field, wondering if it would shock me and... it shocked me. City girl.)

That's my left-leaning son in the middle with the peace sign t-shirt on. 
And everyone loves to visit with my grandmother, an in-law in the family, who is the last of her generation... the remaining aunt for the oldest attendees. They ask her to identify people in old family photos, take pictures with her, and tell her how their children and grandchildren are doing. Her birthday is on the 28th and we all sang to her twice for some reason. She deserves it. 

My grandmother visiting at the photo and check-in table.
I haven't mentioned the silent auction, the kids coloring table, Al Mladenka playing "Fulsom Prison" on my great grandmother's guitar, my 2-year old hiding in the closet full of roasters, my Dad holding court as kitchen master, and everyone waving goodbye to my grandmother as the nursing home bus drove her away in the afternoon. I love reunions. One more to go this year... Zielonka in November in Yorktown.


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