Before retiring next month, Sally Allen has some favorite recipes to whip up for the lunch crowd at the Grace Moore Senior Citizens Center in Flandreau.
There’s her ham salad on May 15. Potato salad and lemon meringue pie are planned on May 24. Bread, always her homemade bread, buns and caramel rolls. Somewhere in there, she’ll make her boss Gayle Soward’s favorite frosted lemon dessert.
“We’re going to try to conquer making the bread. They love the homemade bread. If we can’t get the homemade bread figured out, that’s one thing they’re going to miss,” Soward says of the average of 50 guests who eat at the center each day.
Allen’s recipe starts with 28 cups of flour, she says while kneading and rolling out a super-sized pan of perfect dough into dozens of caramel rolls and tea rolls for lunch. Talking with Allen while she bakes is like pulling up a chair in “grandma’s” kitchen and settling in to hear some favorite stories.
“This bread recipe, I have it written down, but I don’t use a recipe anymore,” she says of the Hawaiian-style dough. “Don’t give my secrets away,” she adds with a smile.
Allen, 80, learned to bake as a girl.
“I like to make bread,” she says while massaging the dough into a rectangle to cover with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar before rolling into the pinwheels that will raise while resting in more butter and brown sugar. “My mom taught me how to do this years ago. I’ve been making bread since the ‘60s.”
After 23 years working at the center and a life-time making bread, caramel rolls and other baked goods at home for her family, Allen is going to turn over her job at the center to others starting June 1. She’s not sure what she will do next, but it’s time, she says.
“I’ve just got to quit,” she says. “My back’s been bothering me.”
Allen, who was born in Eureka and grew up in Mobridge, came to Flandreau with her husband, Richard “Chuck” Allen, who was chairman of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe from 1994 to 1998. He died in 2002. They had previously lived in other states.
When it came to his wife, he needed some persistence. She didn’t say “yes” to his marriage proposal the first time or the second time.
“The poor guy asked me to marry him three times,” she says. “I just wasn’t ready to get married.”
Finally, she did accept his offer, and they went on to raise four children together: Julie, Richard, Victor and Mark. Her family got fresh bread or donuts or other treats each day after school.
“We got all that stuff then,” son, Victor, says. “If I want some now, I’ve got to come in here (the center).”
Allen doesn’t bake at home anymore, saving the skill for her job.
On May 18, she will have her caramel rolls and breads available for sale as a fundraiser for the senior center as part of the annual Spring Fling at Eastman Hall. The event from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. also will include other vendors and a walking taco meal to support Trinity Redday’s band trip.
People will stand in line for the rolls and bread, Soward says.
“We open at 8 and there’s people there waiting for the caramel rolls,” she says. Allen keeps baking so everything is hot out of the oven. “There’s always a line for the bread.”
Soward has asked Allen to stay on at the center, but Allen’s family is encouraging her to retire.
“It’ll be a new adventure for us not having her. Whoever we hire to step into her place has big shoes to fill,” Soward says.
Allen, Soward and Cyndi Weddell have worked together for several years at the center but also worked together in 1975 at a child care program at Flandreau Indian School.
“She was a blast back then, too,” Soward says of Allen.
When Allen retires, there might be one slight issue. She won’t have the center’s large commercial mixer that she uses for bread, the appliance that “does all the work for me.”
She’s also not accustomed to making small batches.
“How do you make two loaves of bread?” she asks.