VINCENNES, Ind. — “That’s my grandmother there,” said Rebecca Miller with a proud smile as she pointed to an old black and white photo, the women staring back, most all of them anyway, with somber faces.
“This was in 1957,” Miller said, carefully placing the photo back down on the table. “Used to, a long time ago, they met to ride horses.”
“They had to,” chimed in 93-year-old Audrey Ann Worstell with a laugh. “That was the only way to get anywhere.”
Miller and her mother, Freddie Fay Burke, 90, as well as Worstell and her daughter, Candy McCarty, are four members of the South Knox area “Pals of Yesterday” social club that’s celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The ladies club has evolved a lot over the last century, but ultimately its members have held fast to traditions firmly rooted in friendship, family and fun.
“The idea was to get together, enjoy each other’s company and ride horses, sew, things like that,” said McCarty.
“And it was a service club,” said Miller. “They would do things for the community, too.”
The club got its start back in 1917, likely amongst some young women, perhaps new wives, at the Indiana Presbyterian Church. For years, the older members say, they met on the church’s back porch. Then, in the 1950s, it moved to Gregg Park.
It’s original name was the “Bachelor Club,” although some minutes have it spelled “Batchelor Club,” so current members aren’t totally sure on the origin of the name.
What they are sure of, however, is what the women did during their monthly meetings.
The “Bachelor Club” was founded on the acronym SHEPS, which stood for sewing, horses, eating, partying and skating.
“They used to like to go skating, ice skating, I believe,” McCarty said with a chuckle. “It’s hilarious.”
But the club was eventually renamed “Pals of Yesterday” sometime in the 1950s, members believe, to pay homage to both past and future members.
“Some of their friendships went all the way back to 1917,” Miller said. “So, we think, at the time, they were saying that many of them were friends from yesterday but that they were moving forward, too, into the next generation of women.”
In the beginning, the social club was open to those women living in the Verne community, and while that primarily makes up its membership now, it’s open to anyone living in Knox County.
For the most part, however, it’s still comprised of women from the same lineage.
Burke’s own mother, Nora Gilmore Downey, was one of the founding members, as was Worstell’s aunt, Lydia Dreiman.
“I just always remember going with mother to help grandma,” Miller said. “That’s just what you did. You went along.”
The group now meets just once a year in June, usually at the Indiana Presbyterian Church, to throw an elaborate party and always with a theme.
“One year, we had a chuck wagon theme,” Miller said. “That one really sticks out in my mind. It was so cute.”
Another year, the theme was “salt and pepper,” and everyone brought their favorite set of shakers. Even the menu reflected the theme with options like “peppered steak.”
Another year, members were asked to bring their favorite memento from their mother and during still another, the women brought photos of themselves as children.
“The theme is something we share with everyone,” Miller said. “One year, it was our most prized piece of jewelry, something other than our wedding rings.
“We always have such a good time with our themes.”
This year’s theme, the ladies say, is recipes, and each member — there are about 48 now — is encouraged to bring their favorite recipe or recipe book for sharing.
Also, every year, the group holds a memorial service for those members who have passed in the year before. And there are always games to play as well.
“And we eat,” Worstell said with a laugh. “We always do a lot of eating.”
But while there are nearly 50 members on the books, Miller said typically only about 20 or so show up to the annual parties. They send invitations to members and potential guests, all with a focus on making sure the “Pals of Yesterday” continues into another generation.
But with the popularity of such social clubs on the decline, they’re unsure of its future. Their own children and grandchildren have moved away — or are likely to in coming years — and there are really few young people to carry on the traditions they’ve worked so hard to build and maintain.
“It’s all based in these friendships,” McCarty said gesturing to the three women beside her. “We invite a lot of new people, but those who come are usually those with a strong family tie.”
“I feel like we wanted to go because of our moms, our grandmothers,” Miller said of herself and McCarty. “So now, I don’t know how long it will all last.
“Maybe a few more years, but after that, I just don’t know.”
That said, they remain hopeful. Perhaps today’s youth will come to realize, they think, that there is nothing to replace the old-fashioned social clubs and the opportunities they provide to women.
“I think young people are missing out on that face-to-face interaction,” Miller said as she gazed out over a table full of “Pals of Yesterday” memorabilia — newspaper clippings, scrapbooks and photographs.
“There is something here you can’t get with texting and Skype and that Instagram.”
Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://bit.ly/2rFaZ7i
Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com
This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.