This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
Once, the Happy Valley 4-H clubhouse was new and covered in fresh paint, winking bright green at drivers who passed it on Roby Martin Road.
The building was an old store, on property owned by then-4-H club leader Hallie Bryant – right next to her home. When the store closed, Bryant and her club painted the exterior and started meeting there twice a week. They also held larger events at the clubhouse – once, it was home to a haunted house.
The club stopped meeting in the 1980s and the clubhouse did what old buildings tend to do: It fell into disrepair. The shamrock-colored paint faded to a pale green. Brush and weeds choked the yard, growing higher and higher until a driver could’ve easily driven down Roby Martin Road and missed the clubhouse altogether.Last week, a group of 4-H club members and their parents came to Bryant’s house armed with rakes, gloves and power tools. To mark National 4-H Week, Oct. 6-12, they cleared brush, rolled away tires and unearthed the little clubhouse that once advertised 4-H to everyone who drove past it.
“It was clear that there was a long, strong history here,” 4-H extension agent Darlene Berry said. “I really wanted to capture it and share it with our 4-H-ers.”
A group of 4-H alumni joined in. When the work was finished the next day, and the Happy Valley clubhouse was visible from the road once again, the club members and their parents joined Bryant, co-leader Thelma Greene, and Gerald Bolick – who was a 4-H member 60 years ago – for a meal.
The Happy Valley 4-H clubhouse is a remnant of a time when 4-H clubs were based geographically. There was a Dudley Shoals club, a Baton club, a Dry Ponds club.
Now, clubs are based around interests. There are saddle clubs, explorers’ clubs, fish and wildlife clubs.
4H has a long history. The first clubs were formed in 1902; North Carolina got its first in 1909. 4-H went national in 1904 with the creation of cooperative extensions across the country.
From agricultural beginnings, 4-H clubs now focus on a wide range of applicable, hands-on learning. In Caldwell County, you can build a robot and enter it in competition through 4-H.
It’s an organization with a long history and a wide future – and now part of that history is visible once again.
Last week, as the brush began to clear, Bryant took a step back to look at the old clubhouse.
“We had a lot of good times in there,” she said.