When it comes to childhood memories of fish dinners, opinions are divided.
“When my mom made fish, I didn’t like it,” said Gloria Walters.
“I always liked fish, and I used to love to go fishing,” said Sarah Lewis.
However, on a pleasant, sunny September day, Homeland residents found common ground. They all enjoyed the fish fry held in the Homeland Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion, named in honor of a former resident who was Harrisburg’s youngest fire chief and Pennsylvania’s first state fire commissioner.
The fish fry is part of a series of special events designed by and for residents to celebrate Homeland’s 150th anniversary. All the events are being funded by the generous support of John M. Arnold in memory of his late parents, John and Barbara Arnold.
Planned activities through spring 2018 include trips to see “Pippin” in Lancaster and “The Lion King” in New York City. Also planned are a recital by Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra Conductor Stuart Malina and friends, a casino night, and an hors-d'oeuvres party for family and friends.
The fish fry on this ideal September Friday attracted a large, appreciative crowd. The menu featured haddock and shrimp prepared by Homeland staff in a steaming, bubbling fryer, plus coleslaw and potato salad.
“It gets you outdoors on a perfect day,” said resident Phoebe Berner. “And you can eat the fish with your hands. Sometimes, it’s the only way.”
Next to her, Shirley Miller admitted that she doesn’t eat shrimp, but “you can give it away. You can treat someone else with it.”
At another table, Lura Louise Hile had a different shrimp strategy. She pronounced the shrimp very good, before admitting, “I already ate the shrimp.”
Geoffrey Davenport declared the fish “cooked perfectly.” He should know because his family owned a legendary Harrisburg restaurant, the fondly remembered Davenport’s.
“It’s nice and crisp on the outside, flavorful on the inside,” he said. “It tastes like fish – good fish.”
Gloria Walters, the one who didn’t like fish growing up (maybe because her mom cooked food to accommodate her dad’s refusal to wear his partial dentures), liked the fish on this day. She sat at the table with her sister, Fern Sucec.
The two are Homeland residents living in different wings. They get together whenever they can, catching up on their daily lives and laughing over shared memories. Fern “was bad,” Gloria said, “but then, she was a lot older.” For her part, Fern remembers giving baths to her younger siblings.
“She used to holler, ‘You got soap in my eyes!’” Fern said. “I said, ‘Well, hold still and I won’t get soap in your eyes.’ I’m glad that business is over.”
As residents finished their fish and shrimp, members of Homeland’s Board of Managers began circulating with trays of strawberry cheesecake and banana pudding.
“Anybody want a second dessert?” Gail Holland offered. “I’m not going to be very good to your diets.”
For Sarah Lewis, a Homeland resident since February 2017, the fish fry brought back memories of fishing with her cousins in Mississippi. They would catch perch and catfish. Then they would clean and salt it, getting ready to enjoy their catch.
“We did it in cornmeal,” she said. “We fried it.”
Sarah said she has lived in other nursing homes, and Homeland is the best, “all the way around. The food is good. I’m well taken care of, and that’s the most important thing.”