Vivian Vincent is the last of the six founders of Allied Arts Club. This is the beginning of her chapter. For those of you just joining us, Allied Arts was a real club of church women who met for fifty years, from 1940 to 1990. Little is known about the organization, but I came across a file box of their minutes, their programs, and some pictures while working on the church archives. I thought their lives, their story, their friendship, would be fodder for a novel. I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of the story as I’ve been writing.
Vivian Vincent Chapter 6
“It’s not like I woke up one day and thought, ‘let’s start a club that will go on for fifty years.’ But, it was close. I did wake up one morning and think about my friends who were close by. June, Dorothy, Roberta, Connie, and I all lived within walking distance of each other. Harriet was the outlier. She was out on Huntington Boulevard in that big house of her parents, but she could take the street car or even drive her own car into our part of town. We all went to First Baptist Church, and some of us knew each other all the way back to the cradle roll. Just because we had gotten married and started families didn’t mean we couldn’t still be good friends who did fun things together.”
Vivian Vincent had gotten up early this Thursday morning because she knew it would take her an extra long time to get ready for the luncheon at the Tea House. The aches and pains made it harder to do all the preparations, and many mornings she just bypassed a few of them. This morning, though, she wanted to take all the time needed to look really good. She had a new hairstyle that Anna at the Garden salon had done for her. She had gone to Macy’s and gotten a makeover and learned how to do a better job with the makeup for her older face. The new suit from Mona Lisa’s fit just perfectly and didn’t make her look like the skinny scarecrow she sometimes saw in the mirror. It’s shade of dark blue seemed to put more color in her cheeks. She had planned to wear a beige suit that was hanging in her closet, only worn one other time for her granddaughter’s wedding, but when she tried it on to make sure it still fit, that pale color just washed away what little color she did have in her face. The new suit was a good purchase. She would wear it again.
“Dear Lord, You must help me through this day. Please guide my steps and help me go to the last luncheon of the Allied Arts club. Please bless all that we do today. Amen.”
Vivian knew it would take miraculous help to get her through this. Most days she slept in late, and then spent much of the day in her small apartment at San Joaquin Gardens, the apartment where she had lived for the past three years. Delmar had been gone for so long and it had gotten too hard to keep up the house any more, even with hired help that her sons sent. She couldn’t go up the front steps any more, and cooking for herself had become too difficult. The Gardens made it all so easy. She had her meals at the café and a housekeeper came once a week to do laundry and clean around the apartment. She even had a girl who came once a month to help pay her bills. She could still drive and once a month, Vivian would go to the Allied Arts meeting. She also drove to church most Sundays, but she had found that the service at the Gardens, done by the chaplain, was very nice. On those Sundays when it was too hard to get up and get out on time, she would go over to the chapel for Sunday service. Then everyone would go to lunch together at the café. It was pleasant. She felt blessed to be able to live here.
Her sons helped with the cost when it was time to buy in and they checked on her weekly to make sure everything was okay for her. They were good sons. She knew they were busy with the business they had inherited from her father, the machinery manufacturing company here in Fresno. And now they had started a food processing plant where they froze peaches and sold them in large packages to the schools. They also had families that needed them.
Her daughter, Allie, lived in Manhattan and only came to visit once a year. She had taken her inheritance from her grandparents and started a small clothing company that made upscale maternity clothes. Allie had always complained that you could never find stylish maternity clothes when she had been pregnant with her two children. It seemed New York was the place to be if you wanted to design clothes.
“We didn’t worry about such things when we were pregnant,” Vivian told her. “We just wore large smocks that covered us and our blooming belly.”
“But, mom,” Allied complained, “you didn’t have to look good for a board presentation or a client meeting when you were pregnant. You only had small children who saw you every day. So it didn’t matter if you looked stylish.”
Vivian had planned each of her three children to be born right before summer vacation so she would not miss any time from her job as an elementary school teacher. She did take off an extra year after her last son, Billy, was born. Three children were too many for her mother to take care of so she waited until Allie could start kindergarten before returning to the classroom. Since she was at the same school, Allie just came over after school and sat in Vivian’s third grade room until it was time to go home. This worked for all the kids through the years until they went to junior high and high school. Then they walked home after school. While the ice cream shop was still in business, they would go there and work after school. Delmar liked having them around once they were old enough to work for him.
“How did I take care of my class, my children, my house, and do Allied Arts? Looking back, now, it seems impossible. I just had so much energy back then. When did I lose it?”
None of the younger women at church seemed to be interested in doing it like Viv’s generation had done it. They always said they were too busy to come to any meetings.
“Busy doing what?” Vivian and the other girls would ask. “We were busy, too, raising our children, taking care of our homes, and most of us worked. But, we did it.”
“I’m glad we did it,” Vivian thinks now as she applies the new makeup carefully as the lady at the Estee Lauder counter had shown her. “We’ve been there for one another all these years, and now Harriet is finally going to move out here to the Gardens, and I can see her every day.”
This had been a bone of contention between the two old friends for many years. Harriet saw it as loss of independence to move to San Joaquin Gardens.
“And we know how independent Harriet is,” Vivian said outloud, surprising herself as she brushed the blush across her cheeks and her face came alive.