The Ophir School Pie Auction . . . WOW! You had to be there to appreciate the enormous effort and creativity that the Ophir Moms and Dads poured into this annual social event. From the moment you slipped through the keyhole, the wonders accelerated as the evening wore on. It was unparallel to most fundraisers I’ve been in a very long time. I was wishing that the Ophir kids could have seen what their parents were doing on their behalf. Impressive! The evening sent me home reminiscent of the earliest day of its conception. Here’s how it evolved . . . .
Erma was in the kitchen of Karst (#2 along the Gallatin) preparing for a record night at the grill; scrubbing potatoes, making BBQ sauce from scratch, gathering all the stray coffee saucers to insure we had enough pie plates. The local favorite on the standard menu: 32 oz. Porterhouse (freshly butchered from Restvedt’s), Bake Potato or Ranch Fries, Salad (iceberg), and Texas toast- 8 bucks.
Joel was packing the coolers with cans of Bud, Coors, Oly and Rainer (75 cents); no need for bottled imports; Micro brews, what’s that? Steve is topping off the bottles of Jim Bean, Black Velvet, Cutty, and Jack, probably infusing some of Blackie’s home delivery.
Waitresses (no boys allowed, unless you owned the joint) rearranged the “not so grand” dining area with folding tables and chairs, covering the pool table with plywood and a red checkered vinyl table cloth; calling it good. No frills, except for the collection of 40’s and 50’s vintage hats that the “Hat Lady” (can’t recall her name) from the valley dropped off to sell ($2-$8). They were arranged on a Montana-made coat racks . . . you know the kind; pine poles, horse shoes, and spikes. It would perfectly accent the pie table.
It’s Show Time! The stuffed bear cub holding the fishbowl was the designated greeter (as it was everyday) at the front door. The community players showed up with pies in hand, proudly placed them on the pool table, then claiming their bidding area for the night. Some ordered dinner, many ordered whiskey, every one saved room for pie. Apple (of course), cherry, rhubarb, lemon meringue, pumpkin, pecan. Some (the intrepid) snuck in peach cobbler, a whole wheat crust (WHAT!); and to really confuse us, a French Silk? Polly and Chuck (local mentors), no doubt, purchased that one since they would know what it was and they could explain it to us, and share.
But before the pies could be auctioned, the hats needed to be sold. The men (in their clone-style head dress) sat and watched as the gals dickered over the hats while posturing over the pie crusts. With hats in possession, the auction begins . . . meanwhile, Kobelt is staging his tow truck at the end of the parking lot in anticipation for a big night (no guard rails, back then). Joel stokes the stove for the last time (probably below 0) and the party takes off.
Rosie starts the bidding (with the borrowed, cracking microphone), Tiny buys the first pie; and the momentum builds. Whomever wanted to try their auctioneering skill had their chance, except maybe George (Clara Lou resisting, knowing that he’d start yodeling if he got the opportunity, and Norm would soon follow suit). With Crystal Gayle and Patsy Cline sharing time on the jukebox (quarters only), the christening of the annual Ophir School Pie Auction begins. . . . “let us eat pie”.
Everyone participated. The pies flew off the table and were opened immediately for consumption. Erma brought out a hug tub of Wilcox (Vanilla, naturally) and stacks of small mixed, not matched plates. Slices were passed around the room; no limit per customer. Lloyd is seated at the counter with 2 pots of coffee under his belt and 3 slices of pie in front of him. Wally, our new handsome deputy and Omar look alike, intently tallied consumption of libation and made sure no one rode his horse indoor Karst. Coach, Stef, and Eddie, in their self-assigned seating at the bar, grinning from ear to ear as if they had died and gone to heaven. Pie creators proudly boasted that their pies brought the big bucks, equal to a cord of split firewood, delivered and stacked.
“Outrageous! Highway robbery”, Erma professed (who preferred vanilla ice cream). Smiling, happy, stuffed locals filled the old, historic Karst Stage Stop. All voting on their favorites; judges on building the perfect pie; yet, agreeing that this will become the social event of the year. Pie pans went home empty.
This is the picture of a small town making local history. What a slice of life it was . . . and was again last Saturday. A grand success then; A grand success now. Great job, Ophir School. Be looking forward to it again next year.
Barb Allen (then) Dillon (now)