August 11, 2002 Email from a reader regarding St. Aloysius Church Shandon Ohio
Chuck Martin of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote an article about church chicken dinners during July 2004. I received several emails after the story ran and I thought that this one told a very nice story about a person's experience of going to dinners at St. Aloysius. I checked with Shari and she gave me the okay me to post it to the site (I mainly removed her last name.)
My name is Shari S. and I just got done looking at your website, which I thought was really nice. I saw the article in the Enquirer last Friday, mainly because the picture of St. Al's Church in Shandon jumped out at me. I thought, after reading your musings on chicken dinners, etc, that you might like to hear mine, in as far as the St. Al's dinner (actually dinners) are as important a day to me as Christmas or my birthday.
I can't remember a year we didn't go to St. Al's. My mom first found out about it from her father, years before I was ever born. My grandpa was driving home from visiting family in Brookville when he saw the festival and stopped for dinner. The next year, he took my parents, and a tradition was born. Every August my mom and dad, and grown siblings (I was a "change of life baby") and their spouses (and eventually children) headed for the festival. Back then, if no one has ever pointed it out to you, the church and the dinner were located down closer to the little towns of Shandon and Ross. The dining hall was very small, not air conditioned and there was no "number system" by which you could wait for your turn to be called. You lined up once, you bought your tickets and waited your turn...even if it was 95 degrees. My parents and older siblings would stand in the line, and give me a few bucks to go play the games. Back in those days, the grand raffle prize was your choice of live pigs or a steer. I always wanted to win those, although since we lived on Ravine St, near UC, I don't think my parents would have allowed it. Over the years, we attended the fall turkey dinner on a few occasions as well.
After my father died, in 1976, my brother and his wife continued the tradition of taking us to the dinner. During my teen years, I missed a few dinners because of work, or other commitments, but by the time I reached adulthood, I was the one driving my mom each August. Over the years we have added some new fans to the dinner, including my husband, Herb, who moved to Ohio from rural Illinois, his mother and his daughters. Ashley (who is now 19) is planning to drive out this year for the dinner. Not so much for the chicken, but because she loves their Crazy Ball game.
On the day of the turkey dinner in 1997, I suspiciously ordered milk with my meal. Although my mom made a comment, not much else was said. Nine months later, our daughter Samantha sat asleep in her car seat beneath the table of her first St. Al's chicken dinner. I am pleased to say she has not missed one yet. Regardless of what other plans we have on that date, I have vowed not to miss the dinner. Last year, I had tickets to take my daughter and her cousin to see "The Wiggles" at US Bank Arena at 4:00 p.m., consequently we had lunch at 11 and were on our way home by 1:00.
Other than St. John's in Harrison, (my mother's childhood parish) I have never eaten at any of the other dinners you document. But, that's okay. I am happy to wait for the 2nd Sunday of August.
Thanks for your great website, sincerely,