Document Collection

Oldest Devon Volunteer Calls It A Day

Source: Newspaper Article
Date: 28 May 1971


After a half-century at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, Mrs. Warren A. Croll of Devon will finally have time to watch the competition.

Mrs. Croll, officially retired this year after 51 continuous years as a cafeteria worker, will be able to spend the day at the show away from the cafeteria line.

"I imagine I will be at the horse show everyday anyway," she explained. "But this year I won&rst have to get up at daybreak to settle the books before I leave for the show."

During competition this year, scheduled today through June 5, Mrs. Croll may even find time to be near the kind of horses she really likes -- race horses.

Mrs. Croll believes she may have set a record for length of service at the horse show. "I tried to retire last year," she explained, "but the women's committee of the country fair didn’t accept my resignation. This year I put it in writing."

Manager of the cafeteria for 18 continuous years, Mrs. Croll follows a family interest in the cafeteria. In 1919, her mother, Mrs. Lewis C. Johnson started the cafeteria during the show and served as its head for 34 years.

Her first year as an active volunteer, Mrs. Croll parked the baby carriage of her son Warren A. Jr., who is now a breeder and trainer of thoroughbreds for flat racing, near the cafeteria. Then she pitched in to work.

Although she has had no business experience, Mrs. Croll has become an authority on the cafeteria business.

"I always loved working with figures," she explained. "I like the business end of running the cafeteria. It's not hard. I grew up with it."

Her job involved steady work from January, for monthly meetings with the Women’s Committee of the Country Fair, through show time. After the show, she worked until August auditing books.

In January, Mrs. Croll and her co-chairman, Mrs. Edwin J. Schoettle Jr. of Newtown Square, began consulting with chefs for the full-course lunches and dinners offered daily during the show.

The cafeteria, staffed by two full-time chefs each day with additional help on certain days, and some 250 volunteers, cleared more than $9,000 for the past two years, Mrs. Croll said. On Decoration Day last year, the cafeteria served more than 1,000 lunches and dinners.

In addition to regular cafeteria service, the cafeteria committee caters private dinner parties and serves dinners for special guests at the horse show.

Since she worked with her mother over fifty years ago, Mrs. Croll has watched the Devon show grow from a modest-sized horse show with a friendliness she misses, to one of the largest shows in the country with its own country fair.

"In the past you knew everyone on the grounds," she said. "Today you can walk down the midway and not know a soul."

The business end of running a horse show has changed in the last 50 years. Mrs. Croll depends on the American Restaurant Assn. for cafeteria food, but her mother had nearly all her food donated by area residents from their large estates.

"Chauffeur-driven cars would bring loads of asparagus or strawberries to the cafeteria," Mrs. Croll said. "If my mother had to spend $300 for food, she thought it was wicked."

As manager, Mrs. Croll would be at the show from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. "seeing that everything was going right."

"Problems always popped up, but they never amounted to much," she said.

At horse show time Mrs. Croll always managed to smooth over any problem - even getting to the show with a cast on her leg.

"I came in a wheelchair that year," she recalled. "You can get there if you have to."

Another year, in spite of a broken shoulder, she posed for a magazine photograph to illustrate an article on the horse show.

For her dedicated service to the show, a local television station presented Mrs. Croll with its "People Are Great" award last year.

This year as a member of the executive board of the women's committee, she will be involved in the cafeteria only as a consultant. To keep the family tradition, her daughter, Mrs. Jane C. Tiffany will work one shift at the cafeteria.

Being in the cafeteria business has taught Mrs. Croll the ins and outs of a cafeteria.

"I would do everything from scrap dishes to meet celebrities," she explained. "I worked where I was needed."

During her service as manager, Mrs. Croll misses one thing she intends to correct this year. She explained, "I never got a chance to see the horses."

References: The Devon Horse Show Association by Elinor C. J. Sensenig, TEQ 12-3 (April 1963); Where Champions meet - The Devon Horse Show by Bob Goshorn, TEQ 32-3 (July 1994)