“My memories of the day of the first sale are not as clear as the meeting before the sale at Erb Street Mennonite Church. The women met to plan what they could do to help make it a success. I had been invited to attend as a representative of a Markham-Waterloo Mennonite sewing circle. Mrs. Byler was there to talk to us about things that sell well at the Pennsylvania relief sale. Quilts are a very important item, but she warned about sewing circles competing with each other, causing hurt feelings and jealousy. Our aim should be that the more money that is raised, the more hungry people can be fed.
At their sale, wet-bottom shoo fly pie and fresh strawberry pie were in demand. Any shoo fly pie I had ever known were dry, very dry. Of course this aroused my curiosity about how they are made. Mrs. Byler promised to send us their recipes. The women in Ontario decided we should make maple syrup shoo fly pies with set bottoms; they were delicious. Margaret Brubacher, in charge of the women’s section, called me one day to ask if the Markham-Waterloo ladies could promise to bake enough shoo fly pies so that they could advertise them in their brochure and we agreed. John Weber donated some dark maple syrup and asked other farmers to donate some as well. One year, there were more than 20 gallons donated. That year we started baking shoo fly pies at Sittler’s Home Baking (in Conestogo).
I believe it was the second year, early Saturday morning, while standing near the information booth that I heard Margaret Brubacher say, “Can anyone help me? The people want to buy canned goods and the ladies who are in charge are not here yet!” Selling seemed more attractive to me than being in a crowd so I offered to help. I had no idea what to charge, so she quickly suggested some prices. By the time the ladies arrived, there was not very much left to sell. This gave me an idea. Jams, jellies, pickles and relishes could be made throughout the year. Seeing my interest, Margaret Brubacher asked me to be in charge of selling canned goods the next year. I asked others to help and they, too, became involved in canning. When we moved up north, Selina Brubacher took charge, and she has now handed the project to younger women.
During the years when everything was inside the arena, it became more and more crowded until it was next to impossible to move. One time when we needed more change, I had to fight my way through the crowd. By the next year they had put tents outside for the tea balls, bread, etc. I have fond memories of the relief sale, all except for that crowded arena!
May the dollars that the sale brings in be used to relief the suffering ones throughout the world; this is my prayer.”
-By Selina Frey, 1991 (Selina died in 2002) She joined Floradale Mennonite in 1972, before that she was part of the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference.