In the nineties and early nineteen hundreds, there was a time when beekeepers' conventions assumed something of the camp meeting aspect. The meetings were jolly occasions, in which good fellowship rather than business prevailed. Sessions were opened with songs and prayers, and there was much visiting between times. Discussions were largely given over to bee behavior and management, and the bitter arguments and incriminations of other days were forgotten.
Several songs written especially for these conventions were set to music and published under the title Songs of Beedom.
Eugene Secor, James Boat, and George W. York were authors of such songs. Dr. C. C. Miller wrote the music for most of them, although both York and Boat wrote some of the music. "The Beekeepers' Reunion Song, " "The Beekeepers' Lullaby, " "The Hum of the Bees in the Apple Tree Bloom, " "Buckwheat Cakes and Honey, ' and "Dot Happy Bee Man" are among the popular titles.
Conventions in that day were reported in great detail in the bee magazines, sometimes carrying over from month to month for several successive issues before the whole story was told. At the time of the Denver convention, in 1902, Editor York of the American Bee Journal devoted much space to a description of Colorado scenic attractions, besides many pictures of local interest. The story of the convention ran through ten or eleven issues before it was completed. On the cover of the November 27 issue is a picture of Doctor Miller and Editor York with some of the ladies, all riding on burros as they did in those days when out to see the sights.
A forty-eight-page booklet was issued as a souvenir of that convention. It contained pictures of the officers of the association, pictures of leading Colorado beemen, a convention group, and numerous local scenes. The fact that it was sold at the low price of ten cents per copy indicates that a large number must have been sold in order to defray the cost of compiling and printing.
Early in the summer of 1903, plans were made for a national convention at Los Angeles. For weeks before time for the convention, notices appeared in the bee papers. All who could do so were urged to join a party over the Santa Fe, and go in a special car to be provided for the beemen. Four days and nights to be spent thus in company with congenial friends, was represented as the opportunity of a lifetime. Among those who were to go were named W. Z. Hutchinson, Dr. C. C. Miller, George W. York and Mrs. York, and Editor Root.
The round trip fare from Chicago to Los Angeles was $50, with $6. 00 for berth and $6. 50 additional for a side trip to the Grand Canyon.
The train left Chicago on August 12. About sixteen beekeepers were in the party when it left Chicago, but others joined at Kansas City and other points as far as Trinidad, Colorado. It was a jolly crowd.
The train reached the Canyon on Saturday night just in time to permit a walk to the rim before dark. There was no barber shop within sixty miles, and the beemen had not had an opportunity to shave since leaving Chicago on Wednesday. When it was discovered that two young men in the party were barbers, an emergency shop was set up and the boys did a rushing business for a time.
A religious service was held in the hotel parlor Sunday morning, and then came a struggle with conscience as to whether it would be a violation of the Sabbath to visit the Canyon on Sunday. Conscience won for Doctor Miller and he remained at headquarters, but A. I. Root felt that he could not forego the opportunity to visit the Canyon after coming so far. Most of the party took the trip, conscience or no conscience, but it was a hot, long, and tiresome trip, and it was a tired group that came back later in the day.
It was the first visit to California for many, and the numerous sight-seeing trips overshadowed the convention. While the convention report occupied many pages of bee magazines for several weeks, much space was also given to a description of the many interesting things which attracted the beemen outside the convention. There was a trip to Catalina, which seemed like a wonderland to the visitors from the Middle West, visits to Pasadena and other points, and then the long homeward trip. Because of the long trip which permitted friendly contact for an extended period, the Los Angeles convention marked the high point from a social standpoint.
Attendance and interest continued for several years. There were 238 persons in the group picture taken at the Detroit convention in 1908, and the convention at Albany in 1910 appears to have been equally well attended. The decline came suddenly following the Minneapolis meeting, as already told.