When Tammy Johnson started discussing a graduation party with her daughter, Paige, she found the senior showed little interest.
“She said she didn’t even want a party,” her mom said. “She kept saying keep it simple. She didn’t demand a single thing.”
The Randolph woman admits she had been thinking about a party for her daughter for a long time. Having grown up in a family where traditions and heirlooms are of great value, Paige naturally comes by the love of antiques and a special appreciation of items she believes hold sentimental value to others, including those found in local antique shops.
“I think my goal was to make it totally her, something she loved and something that reflected her interests,” says Tammy. “I wanted her to be happy.”
“My mom was starting to come up with plans,” says the Randolph Central grad. “I started getting excited about it. I saw every detail in my head.”
Family events have taken place on her grandparents’ property for many years, including her parents’ wedding in the woods, which involved trimming pathways, planting flowers and the building a small bridge and an outdoor church sanctuary. A few years later, a barn on the same property was emptied, cleaned and repaired in order to ready it for her aunt and uncle’s wedding reception. The beloved structure, built in the 1800s, came with a house, some out buildings and 175 acres of land that was purchased in 1913 by Paige’s great-great-grandparents, Fred and Vevie Blood. Their son, Harvey Blood, who was born one year before the purchase, spent the rest of his life living in the same house. Harvey and his wife Helen’s youngest child, Cathy, had never lived anywhere but the old farmhouse, until she and her husband Harry Uhl built a home just a few yards away. Two of the Uhl’s children, Tammy and Cody, have both built homes on the property and now five of the Uhl’s grandchildren are the fifth generation to reside on the old homestead.
As amazing as it seems, Mrs. Uhl has several of her grandfather’s diaries. In the 1913 edition, Fred Blood mentions purchasing the farm which came with some sugaring supplies. He also told about putting a new roof on the sugar house. In a diary written ten years later, he told about building a new sugar house. The family has collected sap from the acreage’s maple trees ever since Fred and Vevie moved in and still use some of the old sap buckets and spiles. Harry and Cody Uhl replaced the 1923 sugar house in 2004. Cathy still makes maple cream and maple sugar, like the two generations of women before her with the only difference being her grandmother and mother made their maple sugar on the wood stove Cathy grew up with.
With all of this family history and the graduate’s love of all things old, the barn seemed the logical location in which to celebrate. Because the family has a reputation for hosting memorable events, their friends and extended family look forward to seeing what is in store whenever they receive an invitation. The graduation party did not disappoint.
“The outcome was exactly as I had envisioned and that day exceeded my expectations,” says the teen. “I really loved the family history section we put together, including the Hungry Hound signs, the sugaring section and the table with pictures of my family. All of the centerpieces on the tables were things I have collected and have on display in my room.”
Each table was covered with a vintage tablecloth and held a small display of antique pieces as well as a framed picture of the 2022 graduate. Since classic cars are another of the teen’s interests, her mom arranged to have her daughter’s senior pictures taken with a 1955 Chevy while wearing her maternal grandmother’s clothes. A bonus was that the car belonging to the late Gary Risley, was red and white, her school colors.
The rest of the barn was set up in themed areas. A large sign from The Hungry Hound, a small restaurant owned by Paige’s great-grandparents and run by her Great-Aunt Ruth, hung above the restaurant’s menu board. A large metal sign advertising Park and Pollard Feed hung nearby. The red and yellow sign was found in the roof of the old milk house when Cody Uhl took it down earlier this year.
Some of the other areas were set up like rooms that would be found in a home. Two old satchels located on the floor next to a chest of drawers brought to mind a bedroom that was housing a temporary visitor, possibly a college student home for a holiday or a visiting relative.
Family members shook their heads when Paige’s mother told them she wanted to use the turquoise couch that once belonged to her grandparents, in the living room area. Not only was it in disrepair, but it had been stored in an uninhabitable old farmhouse across the road for many, many years. Mrs. Uhl spent eight hours steam-cleaning and patching the piece of furniture after it was removed with a backhoe, from the abandoned house.
In the same area, a small television sat on top of a white stand where Helen Blood stored a deck of Old Maid cards. A matching Formica-covered coffee table and two end tables were also brought from the old house. A black dial telephone sat on one of the end tables and an old radio was placed on the upper level of the other table. Below it was a pink melamine cup and saucer.
The white Majestic woodstove from the Blood women’s kitchen held desserts, which included four flavors of mini-pies, cupcakes and gingerbread with lemon sauce. Nearby was an old tin angel food cake pan which held eating utensils. To the left of the stove was a picture of the younger Mrs. Blood holding her first born child.
The graduate welcomed guests while attired in her great-grandmother’s gold, beige, yellow and white paisley print dress from the 1970s, which fit like it was made for her. Two of the songs on the party’s play list were chosen because they were on some of the old 78 RPM records found in Vevie’s Victrola, which had been “rescued” from the granary by Paige and her mother. After reattaching the crank and adjusting the arm, the young woman has been able to play some of the same records on the same phonograph that her great-great-grandmother did one hundred years earlier.
Miss Johnson currently works in the kitchen at The Casino in Bemus Point. Besides her avid interest in antiques, she enjoys gardening and has her own flower garden. She was ranked third in her graduating class and will attend Jamestown Community College in the human services program. She plans to transfer to another school where she will continue her education to enable her to reach her goal of working with children in the field of social work.
Paige is also the daughter of Branden Johnson and Mickey Shields.
The Uhl Family would like to invite anyone who wishes to join them for “A Gathering in the Barn” on Saturday at 6 p.m. at 2467 Vollentine Road, Randolph. The free event has been planned to uplift people in these difficult times. It will start off with a hot dog supper, followed by praise music interspersed with brief uplifting talks. Please bring a friend and a chair, if possible.
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