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Two state fair blue ribbons and a dance with a pretty girl

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This AM-FM stereo radio was assembled by David Risley from a kit ordered from Heathkit for a 4-H advanced Electric project in 1970. It won a blue ribbon at the Henry County 4-H Fair that August and still works 49 years later as the red light indicates it is pulling in a stereo signal. The rabbit ear antenna on top of the radio pulling in the FM signals was purchased 60 years ago for a portable black & white TV set owned by Risley’s parents.
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By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

I was a 10-year 4-H member here in Henry County (of the Sunnyside Club and later the Sunnyside-Riley Club) from 1963 to 1972, but if I recall correctly, I never got the chance to write a piece for the paper about my experiences in 4-H at that time.

Now, as sports editor of this newspaper who does cover other events from time to time, I have the opportunity.

I grew up a city boy on the south side of New Castle and I wasn’t raised on a farm, so I never exhibited any animals or crops at the 4-H fair (although both my parents were from farm families, and I now own one-half of a farm in northwestern Putnam County that has been in our family for more than 125 years).

But I was involved in several 4-H projects every year. As I recall from memory without resorting to my journals I kept at the time, I exhibited projects in Wildlife, Soil Conservation, Electric, Forestry, Woodworking, Photography, Weather, Home Furnishings, Sports and Weeds. I also was a four-year member of 4-H Junior Leaders.

The 4-H projects of today are much different than when I was in it.

For example, in the Electric project, everyone made an extension cord as their project for the first year and a trouble light the second year.

After that, you were more or less free to make whatever you wanted, so I assembled an AM radio, a 12-inch black & white TV set, an FM-FM stereo radio, a stereo phonograph that played records at four different speeds, and a police/fire scanner radio after ordering them from Heathkit, a company in Michigan, as my projects for the other years.

In our first three years of Forestry, we displayed tree leaves, wood blocks and tree seeds that we had collected.

In my first four years of the Wildlife project, we displayed pictures of animals we had colored, made fishing lures and flies and a birdhouse we had made from scratch. I chose to make a wildlife quiz board featuring fish my fourth year in the project.

In woodworking, we made items of wood from scratch, starting with simple items made with hand tools our first year to more advanced projects using power tools in our later years. I still have and use some of those items I made.

In Soil Conservation, we colored a poster our first year, collected and displayed pictures of soil conservation techniques or examples our second year, and collected and displayed soil samples the third year.

In photography, we displayed black & white pictures we had taken outdoors our first year, black & white flash pictures we had taken indoors the second year, color pictures the third year, and color slides the fourth year.

My third year in 4-H, 1965, was an interesting one, as I was very proud of the birdhouse I had made (I still have it in pristine condition) and was confident I was going to go to the Indiana State Fair with it.

My birdhouse did get a blue ribbon, but wasn’t good enough to be the state fair entry in the eyes of the judges. However, I was reserve champion with my trouble light (runner-up to the state fair entry), and (shock of all shocks) I was the champion and state fair entry in Soil Conservation 2 for my pictures (all in black & white) for soil conservation techniques and methods.

What was so shocking about it was that I had taken the leftover pictures my brother John hadn’t used in the project the previous year, displayed them, and emerged as the county champion. It also got a blue ribbon at the state fair.

The only other time I had a 4-H project as a state fair entry from the county was in 1969, when my TV set was judged the best advanced electric project here and also got a blue ribbon at the Indiana State Fair.

Junior leaders also was a project, and we had to keep records of activities we needed to do in order to fulfill the requirements each year we were in it.

I enjoyed the monthly meetings at the W.G. Smith Building at Memorial Park when the junior leaders from townships across the county would get together, and I got to know a number of them from those meetings and from working with them at the county fair.

After each meeting, someone would spin the old 45 rpm records on the record player, and we got the opportunity to dance. I was kind of shy around girls at the time, but liked to watch them dance.

I remember one really cute girl from Knightstown, Janet Weber (who was one grade ahead of me in school), danced with me closely on one of those old slow-dance songs, and I really appreciated her doing that, as I didn’t exactly look like Brad Pitt.

Other differences in 4-H then as compared to now are that 4-H leaders were paid in my early years in 4-H, and we were paid prize money for the results of our projects at the county 4-H fair (which was in early August back then).

If I recall correctly, you got 75 cents for a blue ribbon, 50 cents for a red ribbon, and 25 cents for a white ribbon. If one of your projects made it to the state fair, you got even more money.

Back then, this was pretty good money for a kid, as a Hershey bar was priced at five cents. You also could get an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen for a nickel, and five cents also could get you five baseball or football cards and a stick of bubblegum at Harold’s Hamburgers on the corner of S. 14th St. and P Ave.

I also was a member of 4-H band back in the summer of 1970 and played the bassoon in the band that performed in front of other 4-Hers from around the state at the annual 4-H Roundup at Purdue University. I still have the photo.

After my 10-years of 4-H, I was a volunteer 4-H leader in 1973 with Mike Moore of the Sunnyside-Riley Club before I had to give it up because of college classes and a full-time summer job as stock clerk at Becker Brothers Mastermarkets on A Ave.

I may be out of 4-H, but I still have my fond memories of it.

David Risley is sports editor of The Courier-Times and liked being in 4-H.