PINE GROVE — Dale Scobee knows Pine Grove like the back of his hand.
He was born here in 1913. His first memory is of the jitney trundling along the railroad tracks past his family’s house on Mason Road. He was a member of the first class to graduate from the new Pine Grove School, in 1927.
And that same year, when he was 14, he joined the Pine Grove Grange.
That was a lifetime ago. On Saturday, Dale, who turns 89 next week, will be honored at a reception for 75 years of service to the grange.
“I think there are a lot of other people who have done more,” Dale says. “I don’t think I’ve done anything important — just lived here, that’s all.”
But for most of his life, living in Pine Grove revolved around the Pine Grove Grange.
Dale began attending grange meetings with his mother, Meta (Lage) Scobee, when he was a boy. The grange was then located across Van Horn Drive from where it now sits, and was the focal point of the Pine Grove community.
“Practically everyone belonged to the grange,” Dale says. “All social activities revolved around it.” A talented musician, Dale was asked by grange members to play the drums for them at ritual occasions long before he became a member.
“Anybody could join the grange when you turned 14 as long as you were involved in agriculture,” he says. By then, Dale lived with his mother and older sister in a house across the road from the Pine Grove School. Meta Scobee worked as a cook at the school, and supplemented the family’s income by raising pigs, chickens and cows.
“When I graduated from high school in 1931 my mother asked me if I wanted to go to college or farm,” Dale recalls. He chose farming and never looked back.
The next year Dale and his mother bought five acres of orchard land — then mostly cherry trees — on what is now Lacey Drive. Along with working the orchards, Dale continued to raise animals.
He met his wife, Mildred, that same year while working at a fruit packing house. The two were married in 1935 and had two children over the next four years. They bought more land — eventually operating a 25-acre orchard planted in apples, cherries and pears — and their family life became even more tied to the grange.
“(The grange) used to put on a dance every Saturday night,” Dale recalls. “There would be pretty good crowds because that was all the entertainment we had in those days.” Dale also attended business meetings at the grange, and “social night,” held once a month.
“I spent quite a few hours there,” he says, chuckling. Dale served as Master of the Pine Grove Grange in 1939-40, and secretary for 10 years beginning in 1941. While he was secretary, Dale and Mildred would drive around together to members’ homes to collect the annual $3 dues.
“We had 100 percent paid membership for 10 years,” Dale says.
Dale continued pursuing music, playing drums in several local bands and performing at grange dances and other parties around the valley. Through the grange, Dale became involved with the Pine Grove Rural Fire Department, serving as a volunteer firefighter for many years and as fire chief for four years. He also served as secretary of the Oregon Fire Chief’s Association.
Dale got deeply involved in another grange project, working to renovate and provide ongoing maintenance for the Pine Grove Butte Cemetery. He wound up serving as a board member and led an effort to establish financial stability for the cemetery.
The grange continued to be a focal point of the Pine Grove community throughout much of Dale and Mildred’s orcharding life together. But by the time they turned the business over to their son and daughter-in-law in the mid-1980s — and moved to a new house at the edge of their orchard — grange membership was waning. The dozens of small orchards around Pine Grove were being consolidated into a few large ones. Home entertainment, busy schedules and social activities scattered around the valley took the focus away from the grange.
Despite the waning role of the grange in the Pine Grove community, Dale continued his involvement in what has been a staple of his life — even after Mildred died in 1999. He currently serves as an executive committee member, attending a monthly business meeting at the grange.
“There were about five people at the last meeting,” Dale says wistfully. “In this area, granges have pretty much gone out of business.”
The Pine Grove Grange will be very much back in business Saturday.
And Dale Scobee will be right at home.
The reception for Dale Scobee is from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pine Grove Grange.