Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
BAYSIDE – Boardmembers at Bayside Community Hall estimate that it will take three generations for the name “Bayside Grange” to fall out of common parlance after being used for 75 years.
It was Oct. 8, 1932 that Bayside Grange No. 500 was chartered, but not until December, 1941 that the current hall was built, with events like last Sunday’s Breakfast in Bayside starting up the following year. And it was in October, 2017 that the old Grange sign was taken down, completing the venue’s conversion into the rechristened Bayside Community Hall.
That change is the most visible, but behind the scenes, the venerable hall’s leadership has been systematically separating itself from the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry and the California State Grange.
A successor organization not affiliated with the state or national Granges, named the California Guild, has been attracting local grange chapters disaffected with the politics and intrusiveness of the old groups. Threatened like many others with the seizure of its assets and property, the Bayside Grange has extricated itself from them and aligned itself with the more progressive Guild.
It’s not alone. Half of 10 Humboldt County Granges – those in Freshwater, Van Duzen, Redway and Fieldbrook, along with Bayside have made the break. So have 85 of California’s 160 Granges.
All were buoyed by a recent court ruling that affirmed the Guild-affiliated former Granges’ independence from the state and national organizations, and protecting their assets.
“Another organization can’t put mandates on us unless we sign a contract with them,” said Hall President Pete Oringer. “And we haven’t.”
The state and national organizations are “confining and not relevant,” said Hall Vice President Maggie Gainer. “They’re a distraction from my community.”
Dues collected by the former Grange were scooped up by the national organization, which used them to lobby for legislation closely aligned with Trump Administration policies on issues like healthcare, biotechnology and even Internet neutrality.
“All the dues went out of the community for nonsense,” Gainer said.
She finds the new state Guild “more contemporary and more supportive.”
Her principal concern is reinvigorating the Hall as a center for the community.
It has a new Board of Directors (with one vacancy), and is rolling out its new name and fresh direction with multiple events continuing through December.
Gainer said she’d like people to hold their events there – weddings, life celebrations, art shows, dinners, dances and more.
She’d like people to share their historic photos of family and other events held there.
She’d also like to infuse the Hall with a younger and more diverse leadership.
“Innovation happens better, faster, easier and smoother with a diverse population,” Gainer said.
Find out more about the Bayside Community Hall, its events and opportunities to volunteer at baysidecommunityhall.org.