By Sherrie Norris
A festive tea party was held at the Jones House in Boone on Sunday, September 23, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Friday Afternoon Club, Boone’s oldest women’s social club.
At least one family was represented by six generations at the festive event, another with four generations and one with three; many attendees came adorned in hats reminiscent of the era in which their ancestors started the club.
Current President, Pam Winkler of Blowing Rock, was on hand to welcome guests and to share memories with those who have helped to keep the legacy alive through the years, including Alma Winkler, who at 91, the senior-most member present for the occasion.
“We have members from near and far who came to Boone for this special occasion,” said Pam Winkler. “It was such a wonderful time for us to be together and to feel the spirit of the ladies who came before us and to know that we still share that mutual love and admiration for each other, just as they did many years ago. We feel such gratitude for those who started this club and realize how they all had such great strengths and talents that complemented each other. It’s amazing how they brought it all together, and how we continue to represent them after all this time, with the same friendship and compassion for which they were known.”
Winkler noted that the club was just one of many things for which these women were recognized. “They were busy women who did their share of volunteerism in the community, always doing something for others, but they still found time to meet and to love and support each other. Sure, it was about things being pretty and delicious, but it was about so much more than that. They didn’t all have perfect lives, but they made time for each other. We try to keep that legacy alive today. We’re like a sisterhood. It’s the oddest little thing that you just don’t hear much about these days.”
From Sewing to Suffrage
According to a brief history of The Friday Afternoon Club, written in 1986 by Mrs. Elizabeth South Storie, and kept securely in “the box” passed down from one club president to another, it was during the summer of 1918 when a small group of ladies (who enjoyed needlework) began meeting in each other’s homes to share fellowship, as they embroidered, hem-stitched, crocheted and tatted. By the next summer, the group had transformed into a sewing club, with Mrs. Oscar H. (Suma) Hardin as its first president. They enjoyed light refreshments and entertainment by members, after an hour of “industrious sewing.”
During the influenza epidemic, the sewing club suspended meetings briefly, but resumed their gatherings in January 1920 and reorganized as the Friday Afternoon Club. From the fall of 1921, the club held regular meetings twice a month, with members providing not only meeting places, (usually in their homes), but also entertainment and cultural programs, as well as jokes and contests.
It was all about providing fun and strengthening friendship, Storie wrote. “Beautiful floral arrangements, clever favors and elaborate refreshments and meals became synonymous with Friday Afternoon Club gatherings.
For a brief period in the early 1920s, the club was affiliated with the State Federation of Women’s Clubs as a social and book club. “However, that affiliation was dropped, as the members preferred the casual and relaxed atmosphere of their group over the regimen of the federation.”
To accommodate its teacher members, Storie shared, the club began meeting on Saturday mornings in the mid-50s, but has always maintained its original name. Another element that has gone unchanged through the years is the fact that the Friday Afternoon Club has always shown concern for its members and friends in times of illness and hardship, remembering them with flowers and notes of encouragement.
Early documentation confirms members of the club included women of the following families, and possibly others:
Bingham, Boone, Brown, Canipe, Carriekhoff, Coffey, Cook(e,) Councill , Critcher, Deal, Dougherty, Farthing, Green, Greer, Hardin, Hendrix, Johnson, Jones, Kelly, Ltitle, Linney, Lovill, Owens, Payne, Perry, Rankin, Rivers, Rufty, Smith, South, Sproles, Stanberry, Storie, Taylor, Thomas, Whitener, Winkler and Woosley.
Remembering Grandmother Winkler’s Preparations
As a child growing up in Boone, club president Pam Winkler today recalls observing as her grandmother, Carrie Winkler, readied her home for the meetings of the Friday Afternoon Club. It was a typical regime, she said, for all the hostesses, when their time came around.
“Over a period of weeks, she planned a menu and table settings, eyed the progress of her flower beds — so that she could plan the most perfect flowers for her centerpieces, washed the china and crystal, ironed and starched all the table linens, polished the silver and made sure everything indoors was scrubbed and polished, including the windows and drapes.” The grounds received the same scrutiny, Winkler noted. “The lawns were mowed and carefully raked, the walks and porches were swept — well in advance, so that nothing would be tracked into the house.”
Still, today, Winkler recalled, she can smell the starch as it was steam-ironed into the table linens, and cam feel the excitement exuded by her grandmother as she prepared for the special occasions when she entertained her most special friends. “And I can see her beautiful tables with pink roses in crystal vases.”
Obviously, Winkler added, “this was a special, special group of friends, because it was the only time the grandchildren could not play to our hearts content in the living and dining rooms.”
After her grandmother died, Winkler stated, she received some of her crystal, china and her pink crystal salt and pepper shakers. “I remember them being on her table often for family Sunday dinners, but my first and most special memory of them is when they accompanied those pink roses in the crystal vases on her tables, waiting for the ladies of the Friday Afternoon Club.”
Some of those treasured keepsakes, in addition to other cherished mementos provided by member descendants, were on display during Sunday’s celebration, including photographs of the club members through the years, and various reminders of a special time and place in the lives of those southern ladies of distinction.
The Friday Afternoon Club represented some of the town’s prominent residents, and through the years, membership has been confined to descendants of the original members — daughters, granddaughters, nieces, sisters “and a few daughters-in-law,” we were told.
Additionally, Winkler said, “Since 1918, the Friday Afternoon Club has met and served many purposes. Plays were written and performed for fees, which were used to purchase blankets for servicemen.
“Clever favors and floral centerpieces aside, the real legacy that these women provided us is the lasting concern of the members and friends for each other and the encouragement offered to lighten the load.”
Careful documentation of the social gatherings has been well preserved and kept under watchful eye of the club presidents, Winkler stressed.
As an example, the following minutes from the May 28, 1920 Friday Afternoon Club Meeting included: “The club had a regular meeting in the home of Mrs. Oscar Hardin and Mrs. M.D. Little. The roll was called and each member responded with a joke, there being seven present and four absent. While busy with needlework, we had a very interesting discussion on women’s suffrage. At the request of the hostess, several piano selections were played by Mrs. South, after which ice cream and cake were served. The hostess presented each member present with a tiny crocheted basket filled with mints as favors. The color scheme in flower and refreshments were pink and white, the flowers being snowballs and crab apple blossoms. The club adjourned to meet June 11th with Mrs. South. Respectfully submitted, Mrs. A.E. South, Secretary.”
A newspaper clipping on display from the Watauga Democrat in 1928 shared that the Friday Afternoon Club enjoyed “one of the most delightful meetings of the season,” when Mrs. J.D. Rankin was hostess at her home on Main Street. “The living room was very effectively decorated with summer flowers. The program was entirely furnished by Miss Ruth Rankin, the charming and accomplished daughter of the hostess. Miss Rankin has been studying piano in New York City for several years and has received many honors. She has been doing concert work for several months and delights her audience wherever she goes with her skill and sweet manner. Mrs. Rankin served a tempting two-course luncheon.”
On February 22, 1922, minutes reflected, “A very pleasant social affair occurred last Friday evening when the Friday Afternoon Club entertained their husbands at a Valentine party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Sproles. The home was beautifully decorated with hearts and cupids. The color scheme of red and white being artistically carried out. An apron-hemming contest was given, the prize, a silver bodkin, being award to Mr. O.L. Brown. An hour was spent playing various enjoyable parlor games. After the games, delicious refreshments were served in two courses. The salad course consisted of chicken salad, pimento sandwiches, saltines, olives, pickles and hot coffee. The sandwiches were cut in heart shapes and tied with dainty red ribbon. The ice course followed: brick ice cream with heart centers, white cake with heart shape frosting and hot coffee. With this course went cupid cards with gold arrows as favors. Fruit punch was served during the evening.”
Still, another entry reflected an afternoon guest speaker on September 4, 1942, introduced as Mrs. Lettie Hamlett, “a returned missionary from China, who spoke on her imprisonment and her return to the states.”
An Easter Party in 1943 hosted by Mrs. R. K. Bingham, was of “unusual interest and charm,” and included an Easter bonnet contest — “elaborate creations which would have done credit to trained designers” — and proved to be a source of much interest and entertainment. “Mrs. D.D. Dougherty was judged the winner in the contest and was awarded two immense Easter eggs as a prize.” Of course, the hostess provided delicious refreshments, “which followed the Easter season idea of the whole party . . . and served with delightful grace and charm by daughters of the hostess.”
The meeting minutes prove to be as entertaining today as were those special events in days past, complete with descriptive terms and attendance records.
“The combined spirit and chemistry of those who came before us still prevail at every meeting, no matter how many or how few attend,” said Pam Winkler. “It has been that way since 1918 and that’s the reason that my grandmother, Carrie, and all those other special ladies were delightfully entertained. I would like to honor those who were before me, keep the ones who are here now and bless the ones who will come after us. We may meet on Saturday mornings now, a few months out of the year, but we are holding fast to this gift that was given to us many years ago.”
One-hundred years and counting — a remarkable feat for a special group. Hats off to you, Friday Afternoon Club. Here’s to 100 more!
Pictures from the Sunday afternoon Tea Party