SALEM – The ladies wore hats and gloves, carried purses with cigarette lighters, lacy handkerchiefs and compacts.
They gathered around a silver punch service and shared golden memories of the decades.
It was the 85th anniversary celebration of the Salem Garden Club, celebrated at the club’s first meeting of the 2012-13 year on Sept. 19. The club was chartered May 1927 and is one of the few older garden clubs in the Salem area still meeting.
Forty of today’s members gathered at the Salem Museum to celebrate the history. Some were dressed to the nines as the first members would have been for club meetings – hats and gloves, stockings and high heels, of course. Other members wore clothing reminiscent of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s.
“When they met for garden club, the hats went on and the gloves went on. They met in homes and lovely refreshments were served,” recalled Judy Garst, who served as president three times, the most of any member.
“They were all neighbors and good friends. They lived on Langhorne Place, or Academy or Broad Street or Market or High Street,” said Garst, who joined in 1971.
Although none of those founding members is still alive, descendants of several remain active.
They include Jane Hough, whose grandmother, Carolina Harveycutter, and aunt, Amelia Harveycutter, were charter members. Carolina Harveycutter did the watercolor painting of a columbine flower which became the front cover of the garden club’s membership list and is still used today. Hough joined the club in 1953, she said.
For the anniversary, Hough wore a set of martin fur pieces around the neckline of her suit. In earlier days, ladies frequently accented their suits with the beady-eyed mink-like animals with teeth grasping tails.
Fran Williams chose saddle shoes reminiscent of the 1950s. Emily Carter wore tie dyed clothing and flashed a “Peace” sign.
Over the years the members have made their impact in civic improvement projects, particularly landscaping around schools, then the Salem Public Library and most recently landscaping the grounds of the Salem Museum.
When the garden club was founded, Garst recalled from the early minutes Hough has archived, “The glorious ladies decided they needed to do something for our town.”
“These ladies’ husbands were leading men in the Town of Salem…One was Mrs. Charlie Smith. They referred to themselves that way, not by first names as today,” Hough pointed out.
“Mrs. Charlie Smith decided the ladies would have to do something about the trash themselves, and saw to it that the area around the jail was cleaned up.”
They also planted trees along Main Street, a maple on Market Street that only recently keeled over, oaks around then-Andrew Lewis High School and hollies. One of them still remains at what today is Andrew Lewis Middle School.
For more details about what the ladies of the Salem Garden Club accomplished over the years, see the “Living Here” special section of the Salem Times-Register, which will be published the end of October.