September 6, 1953 newspaper article
Hundreds of people in this area go to Arenzville only once a year.
They eat burgoo, listen to free entertainment, meet people they haven't seen "in a whole year."
And they'll be back next year, for another bowl of Elza Perry's burgoo. Many people who consider themselves high-powered burgoo critics claim "nobody can touch Elza."
Elza Perry of Meredosia is no beginner at the business, and has been the soup maker for the Arenzville picnic for the past 35 years. It was he who furnished the recipe when President F.D.R. expressed a desire to taste "burgoo, whatever that is." It was Congressman James Barnes who asked Perry for the recipe. It is said that F.D.R. didn't think too much of the soup and it is further reported that Barnes agreed "because it was cooked on an electric range."
The Arenzville Burgoo is held annually on the first Wednesday and Thursday of September. Nobody knows how years this has been going on, but some old-timers remember they ate burgoo in Arenzville "as far back as 1896 and it was an established custom around here by then."
The homecoming is unusual in that it's sponsored by three organizations, all of them devoted to the town. They're the American Legion, the Arenzville Community Club, and the Anti-Thief Association.
Mainly through profits derived from working hundreds of hours to make and sell thousands of gallons of burgoo, the post has built a splendid Legion Home, and the other two organizations have come to bat for dozens of worthwhile civic enterprises. Right now all of them are playing for the band uniforms, some $1,800.
Last year's profits were nearly $3,000.
This year's sales were a little higher, but the profits may be lower since the drought knocked out many donations of garden produce.
1953 Burgoomeisters, from left to right: Paul Ginder, Ralph (Spud) Clark, Charles Ater, Jiggs Ginder, Ralph Ginder, Ed Dober and Elza Perry.
Every community enterprise requires leaders, people who will wheelhouse the whole show. Ed Dober, shown here with Perry [sorry, the photo was unreproducable], has a record that is one of the best in the land: he's been general chairman of the Arenzville burgoo since 1919.
"There'd be nothing to the job if everybody pitched in and helped," he said. He went on to observe "the boys are slowing up a little, now that we have the Legion Home paid for. But there's still plenty of worthwhile things to do in Arenzville and nearly all of them require money."
"The burgoo takes four days: one to set up, two to serve, and one to clean up."
Perry feels that soup making is rather easy. Here's his recipe for 50 gallons: 35 pounds of beef, nine hens, 14 cans of corn, 8 gallons of cabbage, a bushel of potatoes, 4 stalks of celery, 3 gallons of carrots, the same of onions, 8 gallons of tomatoes. Salt and season to taste and simmer over a wood fire until done.
The wood fire is important, Perry feels, and he frowns on the use of bottled gas and other innovations. Cleanliness, especially in the preparation of the vegetables, is also of prime importance.
"That's the one thing the girls around here excel in," the soupmaker continued. "The vegetables come to the kettle pared just right, and clean as a pin."
[photo of crowd and performer on stage]
Entertainers, amateur or professional, get a splendid reception at the Arenzville homecoming. This photo shows an attentive crowd agreeing with Billy Jo Anderson of Arenzville that he'll never get out of this world alive.
Headliners on this year's program were that grand old trouper, Grace Wilson, and some of her co-workers from WLS, Chicago. Most of the crowd, though, preferred the minstrel given Wednesday evening by Beardstown SPEBSQA.
Return to the top of this page.