A few days ago I posted the first page of a story idea I have for a historical novel. The story is about six women (calling themselves girls) who started a club in 1940, and for the next fifty years met monthly. During the research of our church history, I found this group’s metal file box with all 50 years of meeting minutes as well as the small programs they published each year telling exactly what their plans were for each year and where they would meet each month. Although the six founding members were real women, I am fictionalizing them to a great extent. I introduced the story with Harriet and the first page. Here is the last page of the second chapter with June. Most of the chapter takes place during the war years, but bounces around to some of the other events that actually took place. We join June as she is finishing dressing (and remembering) and is leaving for the Tea House and the last lunch.
Oh, today’s lunch. I’ve got to get dressed. Harriet wanted all of us original girls to meet for a few minutes before everyone else arrived. Sort of our own little memorial to fifty years of friendship. How did these fifty years pass so quickly? How come, when we first got together, we saw ourselves so different than we turned out? When we started the club, started it without a name, even, we were a group of smart girls who wanted to do something smart, helpful, and fun. We’d heard Eleanor Roosevelt say, “communities must know their own problems,” and she recommended citizens form community study groups and have discussion forums. Unlike the other missionary circles in the church made up of older women, we were young, with big ideas, and we wanted to do more than sit around and roll bandages. We wanted to discuss the problems of the world, and figure out how to do our part. Now, we’re the older women, who still have big ideas, but who somehow got lost in the years of meetings and luncheons and teas. Oh, we helped a few organizations along the way. The Nutritional Home, the Porterville Hospital, the Evangel Home, Easter Seals, which used to be called Crippled Children. We even have a box of awards and certificates from these places for all we’ve done. Wonder what will happen to all of our files now that we’re not going to meet any more?
This skirt and blouse might be a mistake. Maybe it’s not dressy enough for such an important event. I remember one time Bobbie Tweed decided we all had to wear formals for the sweetheart dinner. Seemed silly to some of us who didn’t have anything like that in our closet. I was glad Jimmy worked for Gottschalks so I could go and buy a “cocktail” dress that didn’t cost too much. Most of the other girls went over to Luftenburgs to get their dresses. Fortunately, the people who own Luftenburgs are church members so the girls got some discounts. None of us ever wore those dresses again. I guess Bobbie wore hers. She and her husband traveled all over the world with his membership in Rotary. Before he died, they had been to every state in the nation and something like seven countries. When Bobbie told us she wanted to be part of Allied Arts, we figured it was just another club to add to her already long list of organizations, but she really wanted a place where she could talk about all the books she read. A few times a year she would give a book review in her special style. She was so animated and descriptive with her presentations. We really enjoyed hearing about the books she read and she was quite willing to lend a book to any of us, even starting a lending library for the Allied Arts girls. I remember one particular book, “An Indigent Widow in New York,” that I sure enjoyed for its story about the depression years. There was so much musical talent in the group that we almost always had someone play the piano or sing a song. There would be some meetings that were filled with classical music, from members and guests. Cecilia Cleveland had a big formal living room in their home over by the university. It looked like some southern plantation. She would always have music when we met at her house, usually someone playing the grand piano in the corner. She also liked to do fashion shows at her place since the models could sweep down the curved staircase and into the living room. She knew the owners of Cashion & Carey and Cahns so we saw the very latest in styles. One time she got Penneys to sponsor the clothes. Not as interesting. Most of us shopped there anyway. Oh, then there was the time Mrs. Normart brought all the fur coats from their store. That sure impressed us. Too bad it never gets cold enough in Fresno for furs.
Sure don’t need a fur coat today. The sun is shining, there isn’t even any wind as I step off the back porch, careful to not brush against any bush and tear my nylons. I see Jimmy around the corner, pruning that pyracantha bush with all the red berries.
“Jimmy, I’m leaving now. How do I look?”
“You look good. Bet you’re the best looking girl there today. Sure you don’t want me to drive you over?”
“No, I’m going by to get Dorothy. She just called and said she’s all ready. We’re supposed to be there early to make sure everything is set up to Harriet’s specifications.”
He leans over, with the pruning shears behind his back, and pecks me on the cheek. “Have fun.”
“You too, with the bushes. There’s some chicken and dumplings from last night in the fridge you can have for lunch.”
With that, I’m headed to the car. It’s time.