Members host meetings in homes
By Angie Landsverk
When a group of women in Saxeville decided to get together to share conversation, games and food, the reason why was simple.
“They had it so they could get to see their neighbors,” said Ruby Erickson. “Basically, that is why they joined – to get together.”
The first time they did so was on Jan. 29, 1941.
On that day, they met at the home of Leona Behm, who also became the club’s first president.
Mabel Fraedrick was its first secretary.
The minutes from that first meeting show there was a motion to meet on the first and third Thursday of the month – until warmer weather arrived.
That is because most of them lived on farms and would be busy gardening in the summer, Erickson explained.
Her mother, Carrie Regel, was one of the first members of what became known as the Neighborhood Card Club.
Within a few months of starting, they decided to meet in the summer as well, but only once a month instead of twice.
Members invited other women to join them as guests.
That first year, the club had 12 members.
Notebooks filled with minutes from the meetings show each one began with discussing business.
During one of the early meetings, the members talked about doing work for the American Red Cross.
Meetings then included playing a game or doing a project, like tying a blanket.
That was followed by food, with the hostess always in charge of providing the prizes for the game and the food.
Initially, the club met in the afternoon.
Then its meetings switched to the evenings, so they did not have to bring their babies along.
Erickson and Catherine Roemer both joined the card club in 1953.
“I went after I got married and had babies,” said the 90-year-old Erickson. “They looked forward each month to when they played cards. The hostess had to think about what to feed them and would try to think of something real special.”
Roemer, 86, learned about the club from her mother-in-law Mabel Roemer.
“She introduced me to the group and then I joined,” Roemer said. “I wanted to get to know everyone in the neighborhood because I was from Testin. Over they years, they became my friends, neighbors and just like family to me.”
She recalled that meetings took place “no matter what,” even if it was snowing, the temperature was below zero or there was a tornado warning.
Roemer also remembers the club throwing a baby shower for her when she was pregnant.
“I had five children. That (her time going to the club) gave my husband a chance to get acquainted with his children,” she said as she smiled.
When asked what their husbands thought of the card club, Erickson said, “The men kind of laughed and giggled. They thought it was foolishness.”
For the members, it was nice to get together and see each other, she said.
“It was an out from the regular routine,” Erickson said. “It was time to relax and have fun with the rest of the world in the neighborhood.”
Roemer said their husbands did get invited to join them once in a while, including for the Christmas party.
Close to 80 years later, the club continues to meet in the homes of members.
The highest number of members the club has had is 17 members.
Today, it has 16 members, with five of them honorary members.
Erickson and Roemer are among those five honorary members.
At age 75, members are able to become honorary members.
They continue to pay dues, but do not have to host a meeting at their homes.
The club’s dues started at 5 cents are now $1 a month.
The dues go toward the cost of their Christmas party.
On Saturday, Jan. 13, the card club is celebrating its 77th anniversary with a party at Saxeville’s town hall.
When asked why the club decided to celebrate this particular anniversary, Bev Kalies said, “We forgot about doing it in the 75th year, and we started thinking about it in the 76th.”
She joined the club in 1979.
These days, the club meets on the first Monday of the month.
When it began, its meetings were centered in Saxeville.
Today, the club’s members are scattered throughout the area, including in Manawa and Omro.
“If they move away, they still belong,” Roemer said. “They seem to want to attend even if they do move away.”
Erickson said, “When it gets to be the first Monday of the month, I always think about them and all the fun they’re having.”
The club chooses it officers each April, with its year beginning in May.
It also has secret pals, with them giving each other gifts for their birthdays and Christmas.
The club’s Sunshine Lady sees to it that gifts are sent to those who are not feeling well, or are in the hospital.
“I was a patient at Bethany for a while. I had a lot of ladies from the club visit me. That made me feel special,” Erickson said.
As the card club prepares to celebrate its 77th anniversary, she commented on what she thinks the women who started the club would think about it continuing to meet today.
“They’d be very happy to hear the neighbors are getting together once a month to socialize, because there isn’t too much of that anymore,” Erickson said. “That is what really counts – to be friends.”