A Ton of Apples, A Ton of Fun

October 5, 2006

1940s. Apple Day, the First

“The early 1940s. Exact date and time unknown. Apple Day, one of Mary Baldwin’s most revered traditions, is about to begin. The college, back when it was a seminary, had started a tradition called Rat Day. Sophomores ordered freshmen around for the day and made them do their bidding, both serious and silly. But the gravity of the world in the early 1940s demanded a little more decorum, and Rat Day evolved into an off-campusStudents pose at the orchard in 2005picnic hosted by the sophomores honoring the freshmen class. When the wartime shortages of 1942 forced the picnic closer to home, the college orchard is chosen as the location. Students walk the two miles there, pick over 1,000 bushels of apples, and walk home again. Apple Day.”

Jenny Howard in a story online in 2005: Back to the Orchard

2004. Appleicious

“‘It all worked out to use today [Apple Day] to kick off our new commitment to community service that we want to promote all year,’ said senior Victoria TenBroeck, president of the Student Government Association. TenBroeck and a handful of student government leaders planted a crabapple tree near the lower athletic field on campus. Nestled among several more mature, fruit-bearing trees, the sapling creates a miniature orchard, reinforcing the importance of tradition at Mary Baldwin.”

Dawn Medley in an Apple Day story in 2004: Apple Day: Mary Baldwin Reaches Out

2006. Apple Remix
The sophomore class is charged with planning Apple Day at Mary Baldwin University, arguably the most memorable and among the best-loved traditions — even if we were to judge only by the comments and anecdotes from alumnae. This October 2006 there were alumnae in Washington DC who gathered for appletinis, and one alum, sick in bed in Portland, Oregon, still thought to ask a friend to bake her an apple pie to mark the day. “We take Apple Day with us,” said Victoria TenBroeck ’05. Even as the details change each year, there is something the same about it. What is it about traditions? Why are they so important to us?

7:00 a.m.

Members of the sophomore class planning team had arisen still earlier to go to Spencer and Woodson freshmen residence halls to wake everyone with jingle bells and tambourines. It’s a kinder, gentler world than when once students were awakened with clanging, banging pots and pans.

8:00 a.m.

Students, some yawning, some laughing, some questioning their reason for rising early on a day off from classes, gather at the top of Cannon Hill to wait for buses that will take them apple picking. The doughnuts – donated by Kroger’s – are ready. There is a definite buzz building. It’s Apple Day.

8:40 a.m.

Three buses fill quickly – one of the drivers is the father of an alumna who now works at Mary Baldwin. “Someone told me that there are only three — not six — degrees of separation for anyone in Staunton and the college,” said Brenda Bryant, dean of students as she steps aboard.

The ride

It takes just over an hour, which seems to pass more quickly than some hours. Maybe that is because the scenery is spectacular, as we drive through the Shenandoah Valley on a sunlit morning, winding, climbing up and over a mountain that is beginning to show the rich colors of fall, down into lush countryside where we stop at Flippin-Seaman’s Silver Creek Orchard in Tyro, Virginia (See ORCHARD below). Could the weather be more perfect – warm, sunny, dry? “I worked really hard on that,” laughs Marie Mainard O’Connell, Apple Day advisor to the sophomore class.


Students are asked why traditions, like Apple Day, are so important. Angela Bess ’09 was on the first trip back to the orchard the year before and wanted to do it again: “It’s fun, it’s for charity. Tradition ties us to the school, creates connection. It’s a way to celebrate Mary Baldwin,” she said.


“I read about Apple Day, even before I came to Mary Baldwin,” said Sam Skiba ’10. “I wanted to be part of it and I like trying new things.”


“Tradition symbolizes something – like unity with our college,” said Clarissa Brodkin ’10. “Traditions keep spirit alive, they keep us going.” Skiba agrees.


For commuter student Amy Siever ’08, the Apple Day tradition is an important event that connects her to the college she attends. “I think traditions keep us in touch and connected to the past. The women before us shaped the college. Even though things are different now, traditions tie us,” she said, on the bus for the second year in a row.

9:50 a.m.

Seniors are savoring the beginning of their last Apple Day at Mary Baldwin. Others debate candy apples vs. caramel apples, one student studies for a Spanish test tomorrow morning, someone else asks how this orchard was chosen (the answer comes later) … and then we have arrived at the apple processing shed and our guide takes us another mile on the journey to an orchard. Students pile out of buses, get a few fast instructions (these six rows of trees, pick only apples that have fallen but are not bruised or broken, bag ‘em, tie ‘em off, pile ’em over there), and scramble to work.


For the next hour or so, students pick up apples, chatter, laugh, eat a few, throw a few, bag a lot (a stack of bags grows to about 12 feet long and 3-4 feet high), and take bushels of pictures. The Society of St. Andrew, with Reverend Derek Koolman our connection to that organization and the one who helped us find this orchard, will have trucks pick up our bags and take them to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in Verona. We have helped do a good thing. Koolman wanted to tell the apple-picking students what the word gleaning means. “Everyone moved so fast, I never had time to tell them anything,” he laughs. No doubt he would have done it better, but, in the simplest terms, gleaning is gathering leftovers. For Rev. Koolman’s short explanation of the history of gleaning: (See GLEANING below)

11:15 a.m.

Back on the bus, sweatier but smiling, students are chatting and others grab a nap. Rachel Yim ’07 is staring out the window: “It’s a little sad, knowing this is my last Apple Day as a student. But, it’s even better than last year with the community service aspect. This class [referring to the sophomores] is on top of everything. They did a good job on advertising it, and were very creative and artistic. Really nice T-shirts, too.” She was vice president of her sophomore class and a planner of Apple Day ’05 and so knows whereof she speaks.


“Maybe traditions are about showing freshmen the way, teaching them about the bonds we have with those who came before us,” said Alison Kauffman ’07, Student Government Association president. Classmate Patricia Grace adds that Apple Day “becomes more meaningful each year.”


“In my years at Baldwin, we wouldn’t have been caught dead not wearing red or green on Apple Day,” said Lynn Gilliland ’80, now executive assistant to President Fox. Listening, a freshman seated nearby ponders that and says that might be something sophomores do next year. In telling us her story, Gilliland reminds us that this year’s theme, Apple Remix, really could be the theme every year – each class puts its remix on what has been done before. What is old becomes new again. Yet, there is always a thread that builds tradition.


Because the remix of going to an orchard (now new again — as of last year) is one that means so much to alumnae, and it seems, to current students, the president is on the bus and has gleaned apples with the best of them. “Tradition binds together our community. It connects us to our past and each other. This trip to the orchard reminds us that the school once had its own orchard. Once students hitchhiked to the orchard; now we ride buses. Once students sent the apples they picked home to their families and now we pick them in service to the community. At one time, being at the orchard was an all-day event, and now our students plan a carnival on campus in the afternoon,” she smiles.


Nearly back to campus, one of the buses stalls mid-turn. We are blocking the highway. Another bus moves alongside, we start to move to the other buses … and then the overheated bus revives and we’re off again. Barely a few minutes delay, but enough to merit a phone call to the Dining Hall to warn food wizard, Gini Ridge, that 100 hungry people are on the way. It is, after all, one of the events of Apple Day. Apple Brunch awaits us.


The Dining Hall is filled. So filled that one wonders what the maximum capacity of that building might be. How many bushels of apples can one campus consume? And, how many recipes with apples can there be (See RECIPES below)? The caramel apples are gone by the time we arrive. But those on the candy side of the candy vs. caramel apples debate are in luck. Lunch, or brunch, is more leisurely today and lasts until 2 p.m.

2 p.m.
PICTURE DESCRIPTIONThe next major event of the day begins: Carnival. The entire parking lot at the top of Cannon Hill is cleared for a dunk tank (A nice day for a dip, Marty Weeks, director of building services?), a fencing demonstration (replete with a guy shooting a balloon over someone’s head with a bow and arrow), a rockin’ DJ and even more rockin’ student karaoke, student booths with activities, giveaways, food, signups, and the annual tug-of-war in front of the President’s Home. Attendance at this year’s Apple Day Carnival seems record-breaking.

“I think it may be the only holiday at any college in the country in celebration of the apple. It is also fun to be part of something that we know students at Mary Baldwin have celebrated since the 1940s,” said Molly Starks ’07.

“We enjoy it so much because this is a day for all students: We plan it, work it, and play it,” said Sedonia Williams ’07. “It’s difficult to explain to someone outside of Mary Baldwin what it is all about, but that adds to its reputation. It is something that we share as Mary Baldwin students that not everyone is privileged to share, and it is a perfect time to show school and class spirit.”

Listening to students explain the importance of this tradition, one starts to note an echo in the words they use. They feel connection on some level not explainable. “It has become more meaningful to me as we have revived some of the old traditions of the day, such as going to the orchard, and I hope that continues,” said Cami Roa ’07. “I will definitely remember my Apple Days as highlights of my time at Mary Baldwin, and hopefully, I’ll be back for it [even after she graduates].”

4:30 p.m.

Carnival is over, but no one is in a hurry to leave and the music and dancing continue a while longer, booths slow to close and clean up. The dunk tank and funnel cake stand will combine funds and send a check to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, as part of Mary Baldwin’s annual Relay for Life support of breast cancer. Koolman reports that students picked about 2,800 pounds of apples to be given to people who cannot afford them. The word is that the sophomores created one of the best Apple Day T-shirts ever, and for that matter, one of the best Apple Days, which must really please Whitney Baldwin ’09, sophomore class president.

Tradition. Why is it so important? Joy Nesmith ’08 says it’s “because we make memories. We look forward to our traditions and feel proud to be part of what all the others who have come before us have also done.” Connection — that, too, is a Mary Baldwin tradition.


Flippin-Seaman Apple Orchard

The apple patch in Tyro, Virginia is open daily October 7-31 and you will find different varieties of apples on different dates. Still to come in Oct/Nov:

  • York, Red Rome; October 13
  • Fuji, Stayman, Granny Smith, Pippin; October 22
  • Pink Lady; November 5

You may want to make the scenic drive for the Apple Butter Festival on October 21! For more information about pickin’ dates, events, items for sale in their store, and driving directions: www.flippin-seaman.com or call (434) 277-5824

The Meaning of Gleaning

From Reverend Derek Koolman: The practice of gleaning was given as instruction by God to the Hebrews in Deuteronomy 24:19 of The Holy Bible. The instruction was that farmers should leave in the field that which is dropped in order to provide for the “alien, orphan, and widow” (in other words: the poor, outcast, and left out). Doing that, God will bless (so favor) you “in all your undertakings.” The practice of gleaning is played out in the love story of Ruth and Boaz (see Ruth, chapter 2). Thus the practice of gleaning becomes a more interesting endeavor.

Society of St. Andrews

From Reverend Derek Koolman: The Society of St. Andrew began 25 years ago, founded by two United Methodist ministers who were serving churches on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. They saw much produce left to go to waste in fields, because it was more economic for the farmer to leave it than pick it up. These two ministers, Ken Horne and Ray Buchanan, decided to call friends with tractor-trailers who had produce warehouse connections in California. The two men arranged to have the produce gleaned, packed, and shipped to where it could be donated to feed hungry people. The Society of St. Andrew has been providing hunger relief since serving in the continental United States, Mexico, and Canada. The name for the society, St. Andrew, was chosen because he was the disciple who brought a little boy to Jesus who had the five loaves and two fish (see John 6:1-14).

For more information, visit Society of St. Andrew’s musical site: www.endhunger.org

Apple Cake in a Jar

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups apples, grated and peeled
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • ? tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup chopped nuts

Mix ingredients together in the order given above. Grease sterilized jars with a 7-9” wide mouth and lids. Fill jars half full and bake on the middle rack in oven for 45 minutes at 325 degrees. When done, remove jars one at a time, wipe the rim of jar, and cover with sterilized lid. As cake cools in sealed jar, it will pull away from the sides of the jar and come out easily when opened.

Shelf life is one year.

From Flippin-Seaman, Inc. Silver Creek-Seaman Orchards

For more apple recipes, visit these sites online: