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Ilese Kiser Bolinger
as published in the Lincoln Times-News on 28 Oct 1970

Ilese Photo Mrs. B. M. Bolinger of Vale, told it like it was back in the late 1910s, last week at the 1970 Lincoln County Extension Homemakers Achievement Night.

It was several years before she met the man she was later to marry when Elese [sic] Kiser joined a tomato club. The tomato club was the forerunner of home demonstration which now is the Extension Homemakers program.

"I was 13 years old when Mrs. Florence R. Winn organized a tomato club in our community (Reepsville) in 1916. I don't remember the number in our club, but each planted one-tenth acre tomatoes. We met at my home as often as needed to can tomatoes in their season," she reminisces.

Elese's [sic] father, the late Dr. W.C. Kiser, was a civic minded man and a great organizer. He bought a tin cannery for the club, and while much of their produce was preserved in cans, the club members put up tomatoes, beans and peaches in fancy square glass jars for exhibiting in the fair.

She also cherishes her club arm band made by her mother and the certificate dated May 8, 1920 stating her successful completion of four years work. The certificate is signed by Mrs. Winn, the agent, and Mrs. Jane S. McKimmon, state agent.

Dr. William C. Kiser

Mrs. Bolinger's family lived in the Reepsville community from 1890 to 1922 when they moved to Lincolnton. At that time, Elese [sic], the youngest of eight children, was the only one still at home. Two of her brothers died in infancy and in 1909 tragedy struck again her oldest brother, Russell, took sick while studying for the ministry at Rutherford College. They brought him home by covered wagon, but he was too sick with typhoid fever to be saved.

"A new church being built in the community at the time was named Russell's Chapel after my brother, who was the first to be buried in the church cemetery. Lots of folks have said my father became the best doctor for typhoid after that sad experience," Mrs. Bolinger recalls.

Dr. Kiser practiced medicine in the Reepsville Community for 61 years. During the last years,

Elese [sic] Kiser, like many other young girls, met her husband at Rock Springs Camp Meeting at Denver.

Belvis Mullen Bolinger

"It was 1923. I was in summer school in Lincolnton with Nell Bolinger (Mundy) and she invited me to camp with her family at Rock Springs. Her brother, Belvis, was working on construction in Charlotte and came home to the camp ground for the weekend. We got married October 4, 1928," she related.

They lived with his family at the old James Mullen homestead, home of his mother's family near Pumpkin Center. In 1936 when they moved back to Reepsville, their oldest daughter was ready to start school.

Mrs. Bolinger recalls there was no organized Extension club work in Lincoln County after the tomato club was disbanded in the early 1920s until home demonstration and 4-H club organization began about 1939.

By then, the first of their four children, Elese [sic] Anita, was old enough to join 4-H, a precedent followed by Bobby, Emily Jane and Johnny. Their mother encouraged them and assisted them in their work, even as she became active in the home demonstration club organized by Miss Ann Priest at Union School.

Time Line
Event Date Age
Born 08 Dec 1903 -
Wright Brothers First Flight 1903 -
Ford Motor Co. Founded 1903 -
Married 04 Oct 1928 24
Stock Market Crash 29 Oct 1929 25
First Child, Anita, Born 12 May 1930 26
Three More Living Children Born 1930s >26
World War II Begins 7 Dec 1941 37
First Grandchild, Bryan, Born 1960 56
Five More Grandchildren Born 1960s &70s >56
Mother of the Year 1964 60
Died 27 Nov 1990 86

She served ten of twelve years as president of her club with a two year break after the first six years and has served as county council president and in many other offices and positions of leadership in her club and the county council.

Mrs. Bolinger was the first delegate sent by Lincoln County to the United Nations, and was chosen Mother of the Year in the county in 1964. She has made more than 35 talks before clubs and groups.

"I have been interested in all phases of club work. It has helped me to be a better homemaker and mother," Mrs. Bolinger says. "And I could never have made a speech without the club training."

Club work has changed through the years to keep up with a changing times, and 4-H as her children knew it, she says is a far cry from tomato clubs of her early teen years.

Mrs. Bolinger taught school five years before her marriage and two after, before resigning to raise her family. After the children were in school, she worked eight years in the school lunchrooms. Her job allowed her to be home when the children came from school.

Before the day of school lunchrooms, she boarded school teachers. She packed lunches for as many as five boarders and two of their children to carry to school. After getting them off, she looked after two chicken houses with 400 baby chicks and helped her aging parents when needed.

Mrs. Bolinger found time to serve as superintendent of the Sunday School at Russell's Chapel and could always be counted on when there were school and community activities needing assistance. After the children were away in college, she went back to teaching.

Usually doing for others, she found great cooperation from everyone when she started selling subscriptions to a county paper in 1963... earned herself a new Fairlane Ford as first prize winner.

Her oldest daughter is now Dr. Elese [sic] Anita Bolinger. She received her Ph.D. degree from Emory University and teaches biology at Georgia State University. Emily Jane is married to E. B. Crenshaw and mother of Bryan, Doug and Carol Elese [and after this article was published, Craig]. They live in Elberton, Ga.

Robert Bolinger made an audio recording of his grandmother, Ilese Bolinger, reciting poems and telling jokes that can be heard on the Oral History page.

Closer to home are the other two grandchildren, Robert and Reid, sons of Bobby Bolinger and his wife who live in Lincolnton. Johnny, still single, lives with his mother in Reepsville.

Bobby and Johnny own Bolinger Electric Service at Vale, doing residential, commercial, industrial and electric heat wiring and installation for several contractors.

"Johnny's interest in electricity goes back to his 4-H project. He wired our barn and two chicken houses while he was in high school. He was a ditsrict [sic] winner in the 4-H electric project and when Mr. M.S. Yoder, the county agent, went with him to Raleigh, he won $100. He was just 13 at the time, the youngest state winner," Mrs. Bolinger explained.

Since the death of her husband earlier this year, Mrs. Bolinger has tried to stay even busier than before to ease the loneliness.

"I have my church, my club work, and keep my grandchildren sometimes. I take telephone calls for my sons' business and still have one of the children living at home with me and coming in for supper at night," she said.

Someone asked recently where in Reepsville did Mrs. B. M. Bolinger live and the reply was, "Mrs. Bolinger IS Reepsville."

She is such a popular person in her community, someone jokingly said she should be the mayor.

Another reply came back, "Since the mayor moved away, she is."

A person gets the impression Elese [sic] Kiser Bolinger is a pretty special person among those who know her.

This article, "Charter Club Member" was published in the Lincoln Times-News Vol. 63, No. 129, pg. 2. Wednesday, October 28, 1970, and reprinted with permission. Transcription by E. Bryan Crenshaw III

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