On a very muddy day in early March, 1910, a small group of women met at the home of Mrs. Dave Haley, at the invitation of her daughter Maude and Alice Haley, an in-law niece. The purpose was to organize a club to relieve the monotony and dreary weeks of a long cold winter and spring in the country. Cars were not common in those days, and if anyone had a car it could be used only during the summer when roads were usually passable. Then, when winter came, they were housed up until after the roads settled in the spring.
Maude, just graduated from High School, and Alice, a young housewife, had been in the habit of getting together one afternoon a week. Deciding it might be a good idea to form a club, the invitations were sent out and, as a result, these women, some young and some old, were glad to try it out.
The day was balmy and the roads very muddy, but they were all used to mud so that didn’t stop them. The club was organized and Alice Haley was elected president and Maude, vice president. It was decided that the next meeting was to be with the president and all present were to have in mind a name for the new club. Several suggestions were presented, but the name RURAL HOME CIRCLE was finally selected.
It was decided at this time that the Club would meet on the last Friday in each month at 2:30pm. The dues were ten cents when you were present, and it had to be something very important to cause one to be absent. The age limit: from 16 on up to as old as one was able to attend.
The meetings were purely social. At first no programs of any kind were planned, but gradually some light entertainment was provided by various members of the group.
There were dire predictions, by the men, that the Club wouldn’t last — “Those old hens” will get into a squabble and that will be the end of the Club. But the fact that we are celebrating our 53rd Anniversary proves how wrong they were.
Gradually more members were added to the original few, and it has been the policy of the Club to invite the daughters of members to join us at the age of 16, and if the sons, when they marry, decide to live in the community, their wives are invited to become members. The children have always been welcome at the meetings so no mother has to stay home for the lack of a baby sitter.
The two highlights of the year are the CIRCLE PICNIC in the summer and the BANQUET in midwinter. The whole family and guests are expected to attend, and these get-togethers are eagerly anticipated.
In the early years the banquets were held in the homes of members and a real home-style dinner was served, but as the membership grew this had to be abandoned. Then it was decided it would be much easier to rent a big hall and make it a covered dish meal. For the past several years the “Veterans Hall” in Marceline has been the meeting place where there are available plenty of table room and chairs, and kitchen equipment to make coffee.
For many years Kelly’s Grove was the spot where the picnic was held, and it was a delightful place, but that has changed too. First we went to the Marceline Country Club grounds, but for several years now the picnic has been held at the South Brookfield Park where it is usually cool with plenty of shade, and a grand place for the children to play without the parents being worried for fear the youngsters will fall in the lake.
The earlier Secretary’s books evidently have been lost, and the first available is for the year 1919 and those following until 1944. From studying these books we find that during the war years the Club did some Red Cross work, and in one place it is noted that a quilt which the “Circle” had made was bought by Mrs. M. A. Coffman. In several places is the statement that a wedding gift had been bought for a certain bride, and that has been the custom all through the years.
Early in the first year of the Club, the first Circle baby to be born was Helen Shermuly, now Mrs. John Washburn. She was presented with a gift, but we haven’t been able to keep that up, for at ten cents a month for each member, we just couldn’t afford it. There have been so many children that at some of the Club meetings they have almost out-numbered the adults.
A list of the President during the years 1919 to 1944 — Mrs. Nora Williams, Mrs. Roy Burch, Mrs. Dave Haley, Mrs. Pearl Patrick, Mrs. Lulu Jobson, Mrs. Ruth Hardin, Mrs. Ruby Burch, Mrs. Anna Taylor, Mrs. Winnifred McAllister, Mrs. Ethel Hustead, Mrs. Eldredge Hayes, Mrs. Ruth Bigger.
It was noted that in 1924 the average attendance was 16, which for widely scattered country ladies is very good.
In looking through the old secretary books we found that during quite a number of years, the youngsters presented the programs for the meetings; such as in May 1923 Fred and Lois Bigger gave recitations. Then in May, 1932 the McGregor girls (Gertrude, LeElla, Georgia and Barbara) sang a song. And at other times there were piano solos and vocal solos by the Jobson girls, Williams sisters, Marjorie Taylor – to name a few.
After 53 years there are 4 of the original members who are still active in the Circle, and they have many happy as well as sad memories of happenings through the years. Others who have come and gone, some have moved to other parts of the country, and many have gone to their eternal homes. But not many who have been members have left the membership because they didn’t like it.
We have made new friends which otherwise we never would have met, and I for one would recommend such a wonderful Club to draw the families of any rural community together.
We now have 20 members and there are enough young people growing up in the Club to keep it going and growing for another 50 years. So “Long May It Live.”