Lucy Dates wins grange award

Lucy Dates, who won the Dryden Grange Community Service Award, “poses among her posies” in one of her many beautiful flower gardens on Williams Street.
Lucy Dates, who won the Dryden Grange Community Service Award, “poses among her posies” in one of her many beautiful flower gardens on Williams Street.
Photo by Linda Competillo
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The celebration of the dairy industry in our neighboring town of Dryden, the infamous “Dryden Dairy Day”, took place this past June, but it only recently came to my attention that one of Groton’s long-time residents, Lucy Dates, was named the recipient of the 2019 Dryden Grange Community Service Award at a special ceremony that was held at Dairy Day, an annual event that is co-sponsored by the Dairy Day Committee and the Dryden Grange.

Due to another commitment, Dates was unable to attend the ceremony in person, but she was nonetheless humbled and delighted when she learned that such an honor would be given to her.

“I opened my mail one day,” Dates said. “And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the award letter! I was very pleased.”

This was the 20th year The Grange has bestowed this award upon an individual it choose based upon that person’s involvement and contributions toward the betterment of their community. Dates was chosen for her tremendous efforts in making Groton a beautiful place to live and visit.

In addition to her own lovely flower gardens on Williams Street, Dates has given countless hours as a member and co-chair of the Groton Beautification Committee for several years – planting, weeding and generally tending to the gardens at the Groton Historical Society Museum and the American Legion on Main Street, as well as numerous other sites around the town and village.

“I grew up loving flowers, and I especially loved weeding,” Dates said.

Dates is also a member of the Groton Historical Society, for which she served as vice president for 10 years, the Groton American Legion Auxiliary, the Groton Senior Citizens Club and the Groton Community Church. The Grange award included a $50 cash prize, which Dates donated to the Historical Society Museum.

Dates has lived in Groton for over 50 years, and while she has no affiliation with The Grange today, receiving this award took her back to her childhood when she was very involved with it by default, because her parents, Ernest and Evelyn Dawson, were avid members of the Covert Grange, where Dates was born and raised.

According to Wikipedia, The Grange is a fraternal organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture, founded after the Civil War in 1867, and is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope. The memories Dates has from her childhood uphold this definition.

Along with her three siblings, Debbie, Tom and Ed, young Lucy Dawson trailed along with their parents while Grange meetings were happening and had the “time of their lives” as they played outdoors, exchanged “shoebox lunches,” used a “2-hole outhouse” and attended Grange camp every summer.

The Grange award certainly spurred a walk down memory lane for Dates, as those childhood memories are very dear to her. It was delightful to hear about them, as well as the story of her transition to Groton.

Dates’ mother wanted her to become a teacher, so, in 1968, she moved to a room she rented with kitchen privileges from Gretchen Clouser on Church Street, while she attended TC3 in its very first class in the building on Main Street, known today as School House Garden Apartments.

It didn’t take Dates long to realize teaching was not for her, but after earning her A.A.S. in Liberal Arts, the typing skills she had learned in 10th grade at Trumansburg High School served her well.

That gave her a leg up to be hired right there at TC3 to work in the library and the office service area, where she became an expert with dittos and the mimeograph machine.

Meanwhile, a young man named John Dates returned from his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968 to help his father, Karl Dates, run his car dealership in Groton. John attended TC3 part time, met and fell in love with Lucy there and married her in June 1971. Together, they raised their two children, Kim and Brian.

The Dates lived in the School View Apartments for about five years, until the opportunity to purchase their home at 207 Williams St. came about. Dates fondly recalled the walks she used to take around the village with her mother when she would visit her during her college days, specifically the first time she saw that house at 207 Williams. She remembers saying to her mother, “This house needs to be loved – it has no flowers!” She could hardly believe her good fortune when that house became her home.

Dates began turning her dreams to reality as she lovingly built and tended her flower gardens, but at some point she met Eileen Croney, who chaired the Groton Beautification Committee. Dates wanted to be a part of it and asked to join – the rest is history.

When TC3 moved its campus to the current Dryden location in 1973, Dates found herself in an ideal position to stay at home with her babies, but in 1975, she embarked upon the career that most Groton folks will remember best.

At that time, the superintendent of Groton Central School was Les Graves. He hired Dates for $5,000 a year as the secretary to the principal, then Jim McAuliffe, and Dates remained in that position for 30 years before retiring.

When asked what she felt had changed the most in the time she was there, Dates said that, when she first started, kids respected their elders.

“I saw a downward trend in that through the years, and I think it’s a direct result of the breakdown of the family,” she said.

One more of Dates’ talents that begs mentioning is her expertise in the kitchen. Many have tasted her baked goods and other culinary delights, particularly her famous ham loaf. She said the Groton Community Church is planning to have their community dinners again soon, and ham loaf will be on the menu! Stay tuned to this column for that in the coming weeks!

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, lmc10@cornell.edu or 607-227-4922.

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