At Rockawalkin Hall, they’re making those famous pies

Brice Stump Photo

Slices of butter add flavor to these apple pies being baked at the Rockawalkin Community Hall. (Brice Stump Photo)

Pie Power, it’s a force that’s been keeping the 100-year-old Rockawalkin Community Hall going for the past 50 years.

With the holidays comes hundreds of orders for pies prepared by a 35-member crew of volunteers, and the house specialty is a sweet potato pie that’s made using a century-old Toadvine family recipe.

That pie, along with apple and cherry pies, has paid the hall bills for decades, according to Tom Field, a member of the Rockawalkin Ruritan Club that sponsors the annual event that covers yearly operating expenses of the village landmark.

“When a few men here discovered in 1911 that their interest in playing cards was not shared by the folks at the Ebenezer Methodist Church, they got together and formed the Rockawalkin Country Club,” Field said. “Four years later they built this building, so we are celebrating a century anniversary for the hall.”

As for the pie baking project, it was begun by the women of the church in the church kitchen. “I’m guessing it was started in the late 1960s, and they did it for several years and then got out of it. That’s when Bill Toadvine got a few men together and decided to bake pies for the benefit of the community hall. So they had sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas and baked cherry pies for Valentine’s Day,” he said. “All the money from pies sales has always been used exclusively to cover operating expenses of the hall.”

So for almost half a century the humble pie has saved a community landmark.

They volunteers have baked thousands and thousands of pies and offer cherry, apple and sweet potato plain or with coconut, or lemon, and  lemon and coconut sweet potato, to the menu of oven delights.

The Golden Rule mandates that only top quality ingredients, such a milk, eggs, butter and real vanilla extract go into the sweet potato pies that are made from more than 100 bushels of potatoes grown by the Bill Toadvine and his son, Bryan, on the farm right next to the hall. They are boiled on site, skinned and mashed by hand while piping hot.

Cherry and apple pies are made from quality store-bought stock then accented with a touch of butter, a secret ingredient, and a sprinkling of sugar for a country kitchen specialty.

“We are an independent corporation in the state of Maryland, originally called the Rockawalkin Country Club. This is a unique situation. To this day we are independent and the hall is used by the Ruritans and for a variety of community activities, like parties, wedding and funeral receptions, civic club meetings, birthdays, ag meetings, just about anything, but the fees were charge for rentals does not cover the cost of operating the hall. It’s pie sales that really pays the bills,” Field said.

It takes a lot of pies to pay the bill, too.

Over the past few years, new kitchen equipment, an oven, refrigerator and dishwasher was purchased for $15,000. Then came a new bathroom for $12,000 and now a new heating and air-conditioning system presently being installed for $30,000. Next, a new ceiling, refurbished walls and floor need attention, if future pie sales permit.

“It takes money to keep things going. Back in the 1930s a storm blew the hall off its foundation and local farmers used teams of horses and mules to pull it back in place. Nowadays you have to hire experts to do special work, and it can be expensive.”

 In conjunction with the celebration of the hall’s century milestone, Field and others have published a brochure detailing the services provided by the hall to the community and are requesting donations be sent to the Rockawalkin Community Hall, 26850 Crooked Oak Lane, Hebron, Md., 21830.

To support the hall through pie sales, orders can be placed by calling 410-430-4516 or by placing an order by email at tfield44@yahoo.com.

All flavors of sweet potato pies are $9 each, and apple or cherry are $12 each. Pies can be picked up at the hall from noon until 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 23.

Orders for Christmas pies can be placed in early to mid-December, Field said.

Contact Brice Stump at myshorehistory@gmail.com.

 

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