The Golden Age of Bean Suppers

by John Nolan

FARMINGTON – Society has become more fragmented with the Age
of the Internet. Happily, crowds still fill the bleachers in support of high school ball games, or line Main Street in August to watch the bed race, and well over 100 voters can be relied upon to come to annual town meeting! However, much of people’s spare time these days is taken up with feisty Facebook postings and testy Twittering on topics that may have little to do with daily life in Farmington.

It can be argued that this web phenomenon is beneficially increasing the awareness among the general population that there is life beyond the town boundary, but a good chunk of people know this already…Farmington faces can frequently be spotted in Walmart, for example.
Thirty years ago, and longer, though, great throngs of Farmington people sought out each other’s company at massive social occasions known as Bean Suppers held in the hall above the firehouse. It was happy, social introversion on a close-knit community-wide scale.

I was so taken by these soirees, that in a Farmington Corner of 1985, I wrote a couple of verses, describing such an evening, under the heading, Bean Supper News.

Down from the ridges,
O’er culverts and bridges,
Poured six hundred ravenous Farmington folk,
Last Saturday eve,
And you'd better believe
They had empty and cavernous stomachs to stoke.

The Firemen's new station
Was their destination,
For a monstrous eat-in of ham, beans and pie,
Such an orgy of munching,
And guzzling and crunching,
With ne'er a free seat in the building, forbye.

There were red beans and brown,
By the ton load choked down,
And mountains of coleslaw, with ham on the side,
Wild hordes then did grapple,
Pies pecan and apple,
'til 7 p.m. saw an ebb in the tide.

The popularity of these bean suppers continued, unabated, for several years until, in 1992, there was a major hiccup, as recorded in the song below, which is sung to a lively jig called Ramgunshoch’s Rant. Verse 2 reminds us that 1992 was a Presidential Election year.

The Emperor’s Bean Supper

1. In the fall of each year, Farmingtonians cheer,
For the firemen’s bean supper, the biggest around,
But in ’92, it was quite a to-do,
For the pesky darned things didn’t cook in the ground,
There was no way of knowing, ere folks started showing,
Beans bake or they don’t and there’s no in-betweens,
So when there’s no plateful, it’s hard to be grateful,
The bean supper blues are invoked by no beans.

2. A political crowd was complaining out loud,
‘twas the first time in months they had seen eye to eye,
Two Natural Law men were flapping their jaws when
Fulani’s Alliance chimed in with "Aye! Aye!"
The Democrats shouted, Republicans pouted,
The only folks happy were tree-hugging Greens,
They praised the solution to airy pollution,
A firemen’s bean supper without any beans.

3. World traveler Meyer was a bean ticket buyer,
When they told him the news he let out with some flak,
And pined for Arabia, where there was maybe a
Chance of fried camel or tasty date snack.
"I’ve been to Sri Lanka and seen Casablanca,
But this is much worse than those Third Worldly scenes,
My plate’s bare today in the U.S. of A.,
At the firemen’s bean supper without any beans."

4. That hardworking codger, Garbology Roger,
Had worked up an appetite fit for a lion,
By snatching up wrappers from Royce’s to Bubber’s,
And so for a pile of hot beans he was dyin’.
Tho’ the sad situation wreaked some with starvation,
By hallucinating (a wonderful means),
Roj clearly saw foods, like the Emperor’s duds
At the firemen’s bean supper without any beans.

5. The ladies of FED-UP tried hunting some bread up,
And sent for two cod sticks, a desperate plan,
But five loaves and fishes don’t fill scores of dishes,
For miracles only work now in Japan.
So sadly the throng waited hungry and long,
‘Til Deputy Joel Plante suggested a winner,
"Begone with this sorrow! All come back tomorrow,
Instead of bean supper, we’ll call it bean dinner."

Almost 25 years later, it is still possible to experience the joys of community eating at somewhat smaller events staged by Post 60, the PTA or various club and church organizations, and we encourage townspeople to patronize them, not just to help a good cause and for the reasonably priced food, but as an occasion to sit and chat with fellow citizens…who knows, the new acquaintance you’ll meet and whose company you’ll enjoy, may be that same anonymous cretin you insulted on Facebook, last week.

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