Everybody Has A Story: Mothers Club got the women organized for new school, war

By

Published:

 

When we were young girls, writing the class prophecy, we would “dip our pen into the ink and gaze into the future as far as the eye could see.”

But as we grow older and the years pass us swiftly by, we find ourselves dipping the proverbial pen into the ink and looking into the past.

It takes me back one quarter of a century and I see an ambitious little woman making a house-to-house canvass in the rain over gravelled roads full of ruts. Some of the roads were just plain mud. One could not wheel a baby cart over such roads, so this woman carried her baby in her arms.

Her mission was to organize a Mothers Club. The object was to get the things necessary for our new schoolhouse, the pride and joy of the whole neighborhood — the Russell School.

I wonder if anyone would think of starting anything nowadays without a car to hop into and paved highways to sail over, as did Mrs. Genevieve Skyes, first president of this club.

Eight women, seven of them still living, answered the call of this brave woman. We did about everything to make money for the school, for although we had a shiny new schoolhouse, we had little else. The grounds were crude, no fences, no library, no dishes or piano, and they didn’t seem to think of asking the school directors to get any of these things. But, with a great deal of enthusiasm, and plenty of good dinners, we had the help of the fathers for almost any scheme we would undertake. In the early days it was no unusual thing when it was pouring rain for the fathers to meet with the mothers on club day. To show our appreciation for their hardy cooperation in all our ideas and notions, we founded an annual Father’s Day dinner, a custom we still observe.

The moon played quite an important part in our program there, as we didn’t have the lights of machines and didn’t enjoy carrying lanterns, so the evening meetings were timed by the calendar and we came home “by the sweet silvery light of the moon.”

As I have remarked, we did almost everything to make money: sewed carpet bags, made quilt blocks and had suppers. One of the most unusual was shelling corn. One of our members raised quite a lot of corn, and she made the remark that she had so many chickens to feed, she got very tired shelling corn for them. Mrs. Durgan suggested she have the Mothers Club help her. She asked us to a nice chicken dinner, and after we had eaten as much dinner as her chickens ate corn, we all shelled corn and visited, the same as we do now over our fancy work. Mrs. Phipps got the first prize. I do not remember who got the booby prize, but I do know we shelled a lot of corn.

We had an oyster supper; the soup was made on an elongated heating stove with three good legs and a brick for the other, on the old stage platform of the old hall. The space was very small and three large ladies were on the soup-making committee. I trembled for the big kettle of soup, but nothing happened to it. The soup was very good, it must have been because we didn’t take ourselves too seriously, for the old hall was drafty, and the waiters had to carry the soup quite a ways, so it was not very hot delivered.

We have heard so much lately about charter members, and due honor has been given them, but I can’t help thinking about one of our members who served the club in every capacity with the exception of vice president. She, too, had to walk a long distance very often, and carry the biggest secretary’s book. I really don’t know why we had to have such a big book. In the many years she worked for the club, she was seldom absent. Mrs. Ethel Durgan Smith is a representative type of the Mothers Club member.

When speaking of the Mothers Club before a group of Vancouver women, one of them said, “Oh, the Mothers Club, I know of it — it was one of the bright spots of Aunt Jennie’s life.” And those who knew Mrs. Thompson think the club has justified its existence, if it had no other object, by making her last years a little happier.

We have often been accused of thinking too much about good dinners and good times, but we have done lots of work and were happy together, and when the World War came, we were already organized, and were ready for our Red Cross work, which was so creditably carried on under our able chairman, Mrs. Theresa Morgan.

Every now and again, I meet the friends of members who have passed on. They ask about the Mothers Club and seem interested in us and what we are doing. I would say the Mothers Club has been decidedly worthwhile and an asset to the neighborhood. It is still carrying on and under the leadership of our beloved President Olive Dillon is ready for any work that will help the school and the community.

Everybody Has A Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photos. Send to neighbors@columbian.com.