In all the work with the church’s 130 year history project, I have found a box full of memoirs of a women’s group in the church, started in 1940. The Allied Arts was a real group. They called themselves a progressive group. They also referred to themselves as girls, even 50 years later. It’s an amazing story, one that I have thought about fictionalizing into an historic novel. See what you think of this first page:
Some women have children. Some women have pets. Some women have hobbies. And some even have all three. Not me. I had Allied Arts, a women’s club I helped birth 50 years ago and whose birthday I will celebrate today, along with a few of the others who were there through it all. Just like those mothers who are amazed by how their children turn out, I too am amazed at what that little gathering of six produced–an organization that took on a life of its own and became far more successful than any of us in our own rights.
How do you weave a story of 50 years into a telling tale? Fifty years? Who even thought we would live to be that old when it all got started? We were in our 20s and 30s, just barely moving out of the Great Depression, still hearing those stories from our parents and how we needed to be saving and be more thrifty. But, we were tired of the Depression, it was so depressing. We were young and life looked so good. We had babies and our husbands had jobs. We were buying houses and cars and itching to do things. We were well educated and wanted to discuss ideas and books, and yet we were expected to stay home, with the children, and have dinner ready when our husbands came home from their jobs. The war would change some of those expectations. Some of us would be left behind to be the breadwinner and the homemaker. Some of us would find a new calling at the local airfield hospital. But that’s a few years beyond this introduction to our little social gatherings.
So, we started a club. A club of our Sunday School buddies from the Baptist Church, the downtown church. We would always refer to it as the downtown church because later we would move out in the country, to a brand new church that we built from the ground up, mid-century, leaving behind so many memories, fond and not so fond, in the church built at the turn of the century. The downtown church was old and dark, and even dank in places. The rooms were too small for the bulging children’s classes. So many babies born after the war. But our babies were no longer little when the move was made. Our babies had become young people, with ideas of their own, and a desire to try new things. We girls, we always called ourselves girls, even now, wanted to keep up with the times. We wanted to remain fashionable and have stimulating conversations that we could then carry on with our husbands at the dinner table. Growing old was not part of our plans. Oh, and how we planned things. Each year was planned, very carefully, as to where we would meet and who would be hostess, what theme we would carry through the year, what projects we would do, and what charity we might assist. But, most of all, we planned to be friends and to have fun, not get old.
Fifty years later, we are old, and I’m the oldest of the group, so I really feel old. Sitting here, looking through the programs from all those years. One for each year. The plans, oh, the plans we made. The life of the group, called Allied Arts for a reason none of us remember, all neatly contained in these little booklets. One for each of the 50 years. From 1940 when we sat down at Connie Ott’s little house on Weldon, to make plans for a club to now, 1990, when we planned our golden anniversary. Old married couples have golden anniversaries, not young girls who just wanted to have fun with their friends.