So often in life, an era of quiet significance passes unnoticed by those around it. I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the group of lively and gifted women who comprised the Lake Tishomingo Garden Club. The organization was founded in 1960, with Irene Ross as its first president and had its last meeting 41 years later, with Grace Horton as its last president in December, 2O01.
I spoke with two of the older members, but not the oldest ... one of the past members has gone beyond her 90th birthday. Until last December, a dozen members were active with gardening, flower arranging, and working on the flower beds at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri. They also contributed to work at the historic Governor Fletcher House, also in Hillsboro; in the yard and at the annual Open House displays. The two members I spoke with are Ruth Schneider and Ethel Radke, both of whom lived at Lake Tishomingo before retiring to apartments in St. Louis, after their husbands passed away.
They related stories of how the lake community came to be and how it was for them to live there as young housewives, working within their community to form bonds and help to develop a sense of connectedness. There were two day picnics at the lake community house, boat rides to view the work of garden club members, clearing paths on common ground and then planting trees and flowers, car raffles, two day work parties to create a small garden area at the entrance to the development, and numerous other activities. I heard stories of eight party phone lines, and lack of mail delivery, and five years of a "lakeless" development that had only a stream at the bottom of a valley ... with houses that had beaches and docks, with no water. And then the rain came and the lake became what it is today.
But through all the conversation what I heard again and again, was the simple statement, "It was the people that made it special. It was the people," Ruth said. And Ethel added, "Those were some happy, happy years."
So what happened to the Garden Club? Why does it no longer exist? Ruth was very perceptive when she said, "Society has changed, so all the young people from whom we'd like to draw members are working. And they don't have time for Garden Club." But she added something very important, it was a positive statement about these same people. She said "Young people are all interested in horticulture...and they're interested in ecology and conservation. So they're better educated along that line than we were." Perhaps interest in ecology will be the incentive to draw these same people to gardening when they themselves retire. That is Ruth's feeling..."If the garden clubs survive it will probably be that they get members from women who have retired." The interest is not dead, and if Ruth is correct, the knowledge is even greater. Perhaps it is integrated into our lives without us even knowing it ... this desire to protect the earth and make our own little private space beautiful.
As a society, we no longer are involved in as many social organizations as we used to be. But I believe that individually, we are becoming more aware of creating secure and beautiful home environments. We are busy people ... but let us hope that we are not too busy to enrich our families' lives with some social and environmental grace. That is the heritage of the Garden Club members ... grace and beauty ... created and shared. And that is something that the word desperately needs. Ethel said that living at the lake and being in Garden Club was "Enriching." And Ruth added, "We loved it."
So their era of community, creativity and graciousness has ended...it is a special passing. We who are younger feel an obligation to continue their tradition. Perhaps it will not be in an organized group such as Garden Club, but I hope that we can continue to live the lives of graciousness and creativity that they have shown and shared with us. That would truly be the greatest tribute we could give to the significant contribution they have made to our small community. Hats off to the ladies of the Garden Club!