Connie Ott, one of the six original Allied Arts Girls, is on the phone with her youngest daughter, Patty, who lives in Riverside. Patty has called early in the morning, hoping to catch her mother before she leaves for the anniversary luncheon. Connie, who is widowed and lives in a mobile home park, sits in her living room, talking on the phone about why she is going to the luncheon even though she doesn’t attend many of the meetings any more.
“When did it change?” Patty asks after hearing her mother’s lament about the club being different than when they started it.
“I think when we started turning 40. We got stodgy and thought we should be more organized, but we still wanted to be different, not like the other missionary circles. Problem was, the only girls who could join were the ones in Loyal Builders, and that whole group was getting older and stodgier.”
“What ever happened to Loyal Builders?”
“The church got built so there wasn’t as much need to raise money which was the main project for the group.” Connie pauses. “Some of them got their feelings hurt and went elsewhere to church.” A longer pause. “They died.” Now Connie sighs. “The class just fizzled out. The younger people weren’t interested in hearing about how we did church when we were ‘downtown.’”
“Oh, Mom, it sounds like you got served up a dose of your own medicine. You didn’t like what the older women did when you and your friends were young, so you started your own club. Then when you all got old, the young people didn’t like what you were doing and did their own thing. Don’t you see the irony?”
“No. And I have to hang up so I can get ready.”
“Okay. Love you, Mom. Have fun and call me and let me know how it all turned out.”
“Bye.” That turned out easier than I thought it would. Maybe Patty is mellowing in her old age, too. She just turned 40, about the time we started changing. Ok, enough of this thinking about old times. There will be enough of that this afternoon when we’re all together down at the Tea Room.
What will I wear today? That’s what I want to think about. I don’t want to think about seeing the girls. I don’t want to think about this being the last meeting. I don’t want to think about how hurt I was, way back in 1943, when word got out about me and Ed. Should I wear pants or a skirt? Wish I had some of the dresses like we wore in the 50s to choose from. Why did I get rid of all those clothes when I moved here? Because you don’t have much room, silly, that’s why. One bedroom with only one closet for clothes. Romanticizing and idealizing bygone eras won’t work now. I got rid of those dresses because they didn’t fit any more. Even at the old house, I had them stored away in boxes in the garage. No garage here at the mobile home, just a carport. Keep moving and quit thinking so much.
Standing in front of that one closet, I see my lilac suit. It’s a nice day, even if it is still February and we used to have that rule that you didn’t wear your spring clothes till Easter. I’ll wear that with the white silk blouse and my cream pumps. Have to change over to another handbag, though. I could even pull down the box with my hat and gloves. No, that’s overdoing it. Maybe I’ll wear those for Easter and go to church and surprise everyone. Like I said to Patty, I don’t go to church much any more. I miss the services at the old downtown church. Things really did change when we moved out north of town to the new place. It’s bigger and fancier, but sometimes I just want to go back to the way it was. Anyway, Allied Arts never was too attached to the church. We always met in each other’s homes. Wait, that’s changed, too. Now they meet in the parlor or at the community room here at the mobile home park. Heck, they even meet at the Gardens, which is where the old people live. Maybe I ought to think about going out there. Harriet said she’s moving there after the anniversary party. Never thought she’d leave that big house of her folks there on Huntington. My folks had a big place built on Van Ness after they sold the feed mill, but with five of us kids to split the money, there was only enough for me to buy this mobile home and put away a little for my old age after Momma died. Sure glad I get Herb’s postal pension. We never owned the places we lived in so there wasn’t any money from the sale of a house. That’s how lots of the girls got into San Joaquin Gardens. They had big houses that were worth a lot of money. When they sold the big houses, though, there went the places for Allied Arts to meet. Started going out to dinner for some of the meetings. No one wanted to cook, either.
Then, in the eighties, that was when everyone started dying. I didn’t go to many meetings then, but when I did, there was a long list of people who were sick or who had died. It was depressing, but the girls seemed to handle it pretty well. It was as if this was just another part of the story we had been telling all along. We were young when we started Allied Arts, we raised our children, we saw grandchildren born, our husbands got older and retired and we got to travel. Allied Arts was a thriving club for all those years, but just like every living creature, it too had to get sick and die. And today’s the funeral service!
Oh, stop it, Connie. Stop being so morbid. Think about seeing the girls today, and like we did fifty years ago, laughing and talking about what we want to do. As long as we’re alive, there is still a story. I know the six of us will be there, but I wonder who else will come. Lots of new members in the last twenty or so years. They’re younger so they’ll probably come. I wish I could see Evelyn Armbruster. She’s been gone for what? Thirty years or so. Died sometime in the sixties, but went to live with her son before that. She loved the Allied Arts girls. I just wish she was around to see us today. She was so protective of us, called us HER girls. Harriet said we only kept her around so she’d say good things about us. That was mean. Evelyn really cared for us, but I couldn’t tell Harriet just how much.