A local parish is set to host its annual spaghetti dinner in less than two weeks.
St. John’s Catholic Church located at 201 St. John’s Road, will be holding its 56th annual Italian meatballs and spaghetti dinner from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 10, 2010. Tickets are currently available for adults and children and will also be available at the door the day of the dinner. Take-outs will be available as well.
According to Marilyn Archer, who is active in the church, the first dinner was held in 1952 in the FHA Building in Bunavista, as an effort to raise money to help with the tuition of a young man who was a member of the church. Two hundred and fifty people were served at that time.
“The next two years the dinners were held at the Girl Scout Little House, then a year was skipped because everyone was busy working on the new school for St. John’s, and the next year, 1956, the dinner was held in the new school gym and the tradition has continued from then,” she said. “This Sunday marks the 55th annual Italian Meatball and Spaghetti Dinner for St. John the Evangelist Church in Borger.”
She said the recipes for the meatballs, sauce, and salad came from Ollie Bertorelli and his wife Lena. Together with Jim and Dolly Stark and Dick and Holly Tweed, the six of them spent a lot of time and effort making sure everyone in the parish worked together to create a memorable, smooth-turning, enjoyable fundraiser.
“At that time, Romano cheese and olive oil (for the salad) were not readily available, so both were imported from Italy, the cheese in 25 lb. rounds, and the olive oil in two-gallon tins,” Archer said. “Fortunately, they no longer need to be imported, as both are now easy to purchase. The bread is ordered in especially for the dinner, since we use so much.”
The recipe for the sauce and the meatballs was a closely guarded secret for many years, she said. The meat is ground and mixed with spices and onions and rolled by hand into meatballs. On the day of the dinner, ladies chop lettuce, celery, tomatoes, and onions for the salad, topped off with some olives and the light, spicy Italian dressing. Butter and chopped garlic are mixed together and spread on the bread.
“At the dinner, young people dressed in white shirts and black pants make sure you have plenty of refills,” Archer said. “Take out is also popular, and is my favorite, as I get to take it home to have for later!”
Nowadays, the church serves around 3,000 people, and many look forward to it every year. She said the most served was about 20 years ago, about 3,500. Everyone in the parish helps, from cooking to buying the food to selling tickets to serving to washing dishes to rolling meatballs to advertising to putting it all away afterwards.
“We have all have the best time, even though it is a lot of work,” Archer said.