Saturday, March 5, 2011

5 March 1954: Ham and Eggs Show!

On this day in 1954, the Seventh Annual Ham and Egg Show distributed awards at the Union Institute on the corner of Pope and Baxter Streets to competitors from Clarke, Oconee, and Madison counties. Athens and Hull dominated the proceedings.

First place overall winners were Tom Neely of Athens for Ham and Emma Lee Smith of Hull for Eggs. The 4-H Club Premium List student winners were Tom Neely of Athens for Ham, Benjamin Smith of Hull for Side, Betty J. Moore of Athens for Shoulder, and Robert L. Sheats of Athens for Eggs. Adult Premium List winners were C. G. Griffith of Hull for Ham, Valley Turner of Athens for Shoulder, Amos Smith of Hull for Side, and Emma L. Smith for Eggs. The first prize for Canned By-Products went to Corene Smith of Hull.

A total of 72 families entered 93 dozen eggs, 108 pieces of meat, and 36 canned by-products into the competition. There were adult and student prize categories, including a 4-H Club Premium list of winners for students. Prizes were donated by local businesses, but were not specified in the newspaper report. According to the University of Georgia extension agent for black Clarke County residents, Lloyd C. Trawick, the show had been the best yet for the three communities. 

The host of the two-day competition, the Union Institute, started life as the Jeruel Academy in 1881, a private school for African-American students that was supported by several rural churches. The co-ed institution had both resident and day students, and offered college preparatory, theology, industrial, and music instruction. They also had an intense football rivalry with the Knox Institute, the first African-American school in Athens. In 1886, the Jeruel Academy/Union Institute moved into their location at the corner of Pope and Baxter Streets, and would stay until the school's closing in 1956.

The Union Institute had hosted an Annual Farmers' Conference Course for Instruction for black farmers for nearly 40 years, featuring such speakers as University of Georgia Chancellor David C. Barrow and Dr. George Washington Carver. The goal of the conference was to educate black farmers about the latest practices in agriculture, and keep them aware of, and supporting, the work of the school.

Ham and Egg Shows began in 1916 when Otis Samuel O'Neal, the UGA county extension agent for Houston county's black farmers, was looking for a way to increase hog and poultry production amongst the residents in his district. The first show was simply called "The Ham Show," and featured 39 hams and 17 dozen eggs. In 1979, Fort Valley State University named their new veterinary medicine building after O'Neal. 

Today, only the Lowndes County Extension Service office still has Ham and Egg Shows, with entries of 46 cured hams and 40 dozen eggs in 2011. The show includes an auction for the winning items, with some hams selling for $25 per pound.

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