Benefit dinner, dance supports Winona Grange preservation

Winona Grange hall had its humble beginnings as the second floor of overseer J.R.C. Thompsons grocery store, before building the hall as it still stands on Seneca Street in 1940.In the mood to kick up your heals in the name of cultural preservation?

Winona Grange invites you to a night of dinner, dancing — and history.

The Tualatin Centennial Dinner and Dance will be held Saturday, Oct. 26, from 5 to 9:30 p.m. at the Winona Grange, 8340 S.W. Seneca St. Tickets are $40 for dinner and dancing, $25 for dinner only. The menu will be crafted by chef Perry Perkins. Perkins runs the local meal-planning business, which caters to busy families.

Music will be provided by PDX Express, a six-piece jazz and soul group that features saxophone and piano.

Proceeds will support the Grange, established in 1895, in the tradition of fraternal organizations of the time that branched out of labor guilds to provide more of a structured social outlet for members. Back then, United Artisans and the Ancient Order of United Workmen had branches in the area, so a group of Tualatin farmers decided to establish a more homegrown association. As an agricultural society, the Grange admitted both men and women, and members talked shop and met weekly for Saturday potlucks on the second story of the building that housed Grange overseer J.R.C. Thompson’s grocery store.

The Grange was named to honor Thompson’s daughter, Winona, who had died in childhood.

The Grange built its reputation as Tualatin’s main social committee, even sponsoring its own orchestra. By the late 1930s, it was clear the Grange needed its own dedicated venue, so in 1940, the organization erected and dedicated the building that currently sits on Seneca Street.

Local historian and current Winona Grange board president Loyce Martinazzi recalls the Grange’s next great era.

“When I was a teenager, the Grange had a fantastic youth group,” she said.

Starting in 1946, a push to bolster younger membership led to the Grange’s wildly successful youth programs. Tualatin residents 12 and older flocked to Saturday night dances, where attendance averaged about 150 young people. Some joined the boys’ or girls’ quartets, or got their stage careers started early. The Grange offered speech, music and dance classes, largely to fill a social void in the wake of World War II, Martinazzi explained.

The effort paid off handsomely for some: Martinazzi can count at least five youth group couples who later married. Martinazzi herself wed fellow youth group member Larry Lee.

But the youth group dissipated, and the Grange itself fell into a kind of physical and spiritual disrepair.

“The Grange nearly died out about 12 years ago, due to the old age of most members,” Martinazzi said. “So when the membership was dying out, I was told our Grange was dying. ‘Over my dead body,’ I thought.”

Martinazzi was honored for her preservation efforts earlier this year, when the Chamber of Commerce awarded her the Spirit of Tualatin Award.

The Grange has since become a nonprofit community service organization, and its membership seeks to keep the facilities current.

That’s where the dinner and dancing come in.

Funds from the Oct. 26 fundraiser will allow the Grange to make the facility wheelchair-accessible — and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant — starting with its restrooms. After, the Grange will focus on improving accessibility to both floors and, ultimately, replace the hall’s 73-year-old plumbing.

To buy tickets, call 1-800-838-3006, or go here to buy tickets online.

Contract Publishing

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