Fremont County, Iowa

"Ladies Clubs"
by Emily Bengston

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of September 6, 2010

Recently public television honored the Radio Homemakers and the role they played in farm wives lives. It made me think of the clubs that my grandma and mother looked forward, to each month, when I was a little girl in the 1930's. They belonged to the Centennial Club in the Riverton Area. There were two other clubs in the same area, all with different members the "Sunshine Circle" and the Friendly Fair View Club.

Each club met monthly in its own little community. My grandma and mother would not miss a meeting. All of the clubs would occasionally help someone, who needed monetary assistance. They did not have a lot of money but were willing to share what they could. But the main reason for meeting was a chance to socialize, something farm women had little time to do.

What I remember, most was all, of the talk about what refreshments would be served at the meeting. Each woman seemed to have a specialty. I remember Mrs. Taskey, who made pressed chicken sandwiches. My sister, Mary Anne, and I always made sure we went along when it was at her house. She made the sandwiches by taking pieces of chicken, mixing them with a chicken broth, and then pressing the meat and letting it cool. This was before buying chicken broth in the can so she had to do everything from scratch. The chicken was cooled and then sliced. I remember that great taste as I devoured a sandwich that was a slice of the chicken between two homemade bread slices.

My mother was noted for her Jell-O salad. She bought bananas, but everything else was diced fruit from that she had canned. There was no going to the store, and buying a can of fruit cocktail. Grandma made a frozen dessert. She started with the refrigerator pans used to make ice. The bottom of the pan was layered with graham cracker crumbs. Starting from scratch, she made vanilla pudding mixed in real whip cream and then a can of crushed pineapple. This mixture was poured over the graham cracker crumbs and frozen. To serve it, she would cut it into serving sizes then add a dollop of real whip cream.

I do not remember, if all the clubs met in the winter, but I do know the Sunshine Circle met year 'round. In the winter, some of them quilted. If the roads were bad, my uncle George Simmerman. would go across the road to his neighbor and get a buggy. He would hitch up the buggy to his horses and go after each lady. They would start quilting in the morning, eat lunch and then my aunt would take them home in the buggy. Once she got back, my Uncle would take the buggy back to the neighbor.

Each country club in the county took notes and through the years the Historical Society has been given numerous journals from those clubs. Each journal is a glimpse into an institution that was so loved by neighborhood ladies. The minutes are important enough that if local museums do not want to keep the minutes they are accepted and archived by the Iowa Historical Museum or the Women's Archives.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau