Escambia County 4-H club celebrates its Centennial as oldest continuous club in Florida.
CANTONMENT, Fla. — In 1914, cattle in Escambia County grazed in open fields. The fledgling aviation industry, with its flimsy bi-planes and open-air cockpits, got the first United States Navy flight school in Pensacola. Air-conditioning was mere rumor. And University of Florida Extension agent Ed Finlayson started the Barrineau Park 4-H Club.
A century later, 3,500 head of cattle enjoy Escambia’s fenced-in pastures. Pensacola Naval Air Station trains jet fighter pilots. Escambia residents marvel that anyone ever survived summer without air-conditioning, and Barrineau Park 4-H celebrates its status as Florida’s longest continuously operating 4-H club – and one of the nation’s oldest.
A public celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 13, from 2 p.m. to 4p.m. at the Barrineau Park Community Center. Activities include alumni sharing their 4-H memories with current members. (Here is the link to print the invitation.)
“It is such a historic event to support and one where the community can join all 4-H club members in the celebration,” said Brian Bell, president of the Escambia County 4-H Foundation. “The Barrineau Park 4-H program has bragging rights and we want the world to know how proud we are of the club and the people who made this possible.”
The club is also celebrating in true 4-H fashion by helping others. Members have been busy performing 100 hours of community service, gathering magazines to donate to nursing homes, collecting shoes for needy families and food for area food banks, baking cookies and cupcakes to give to the local fire department and writing thank you cards to military personnel.
According to Escambia County Historical Society member Nita Berry, about 10 boys joined in 1914. They held their meetings in homes, church fellowship halls, Gindl’s Store and Barrineau Park School and Community Center. They learned to grow tomatoes and corn, garden, sew, and raise poultry and livestock.
Over the years, hundreds of boys and girls have joined the Barrineau Park 4-H club. Today, 23 students are active in everything from leadership, citizenship, livestock, horses, food and nutrition, environmental education, marine science, shooting sports and public speaking. The club has become known for raising and showing prize-winning hogs.
“They have traditionally had strong 4-H leaders and parents who support the educational activities selected by the members,” said Pamela Allen, Escambia County Extension director. “Over the years, youth in this club have excelled in county, district, state and national 4-H events and activities.”
Tena Gindl, a ninth-grade algebra teacher at Tate High School, is the club’s current leader. The family of her late husband, Bobby Gindl, who famously encouraged students that “your best is yet to come,” has been involved in the club almost since its inception.
Gindl’s 91-year-old aunt, Dorothy Gindl Casey, joined the club in the early 1930s, learning to sew and to can fruits and vegetables. Gindl’s father-in-law, Francis Gindl, now 86, joined in the 1940s and eventually led the club, as did Tena Gindl’s husband, who excelled at public speaking. Their three grown daughters were members. Beth and Kellie Gindl showed hogs; Kellie won grand champion two years in a row and Beth placed first in her class. As a high school freshman, Carrie won the Florida 4-H Congress public speaking contest.
While today’s 4-H maintains its traditional programs, it also has modern flair, with clubs that concentrate on computers and robotics or global-positioning satellite programs. But the best reason to join, Gindl said, is the interaction with other people.
“The experiences that you get in 4-H are just positive experiences and you never know where it’s going to take you and lead you in your life,” Gindl said. “Many kids have come back and said, ‘If it wasn’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t be who I am today.’”
Anyone interested in finding out more about 4-H may contact the Escambia County Extension office at 850-475-5230.
Article from a News Release by Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, University of Florida 352-294-3302, firstname.lastname@example.org