A Day to Celebrate……………..Ramona Woman’s Club Centennial
By Maureen Robertson
The atmosphere was festive in Ramona Woman’s Club as approximately 60 women arrived to celebrate the service organization’s 100th birthday on Jan. 5.
Karen Stangl, club president, started the celebration with a simple “Happy centennial!” After introducing members of the Centennial Committee and guests, she presided over a brief meeting that included a presentation from Guy B. Woodward Museum Director Ken Woodward, who announced that a special exhibit at the museum displays the club’s history and records.
Proclamations from Gov. Jerry Brown and San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob were read, including the announcement that the county supervisors had declared Jan. 5 as Ramona Woman’s Club Day throughout San Diego County.
Susan Ruputz, Centennial Committee member, recounted club history in her “Early Days Recalled” presentation, prepared with the help of longtime members Gertrude Wilson Page and Cynthia Jasper Kunkel.
“Watching carefully as Gertrude answered my questions, I saw so many emotions cross her face, sometimes joy
and sometime sorrow, and she chose her words most carefully,” said Ruputz. “Others’ recollections taught these two — Gertrude, born on D Street in 1918, and Ranchita-born Cynthia, three years her senior — something of the earliest days.”
A complete text of Ruputz’s “Early Days Recalled” may be read at the end of this article.
Commemorative wine glasses went to each person attending the centennial event, and the celebration ended with an array of food prepared by members of the Centennial Committee.
Established in 1912 as the Thimble Club by 14 charter members led by Mary White, Ramona Woman’s Club has the distinction of being the first service club in Ramona, said Stangl. The late Guy B. Woodward, for whom the museum at 645 Main St. is named, once said, “The Woman’s Club has always been the ‘backbone of the backcountry.’”
Until 1917, when its clubhouse at 524 Main St. was built, the organization held meetings in Ramona Town Hall or members’ homes.
Among the club’s activities and services, it awards two annual scholarships to students starting their second year of college; donates to organizations such as the Friends of Ramona Library; Ramona Children’s Charity and Ramona Senior Center; makes and donates comfort quilts to Child Protective Services, the Sheriff’s Department, Naval Hospital Pediatric Department, Ronald McDonald House and Fisher House; makes pillows for recovering breast cancer survivors at Pomerado Hospital; and donates money, books and magazine subscriptions to Ramona High School and Montecito High School.
The club has several special interest groups, including the Literary Club, Ladybugs Garden Section and Thimble Club. It hosts an annual fashion show, monthly card games and a benefit concert by pianist, humorist and storyteller Bruno Leone, set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 this year.
“As we begin the 100th year of the Ramona Woman’s Club, it is important to remember our past,” Stangl wrote
in her “President’s Message” at the beginning of the 2011-12 year. “We need to honor those who paved the way for all of us. The ladies who gathered 100 years ago started a legacy and I am sure they never expected the group to still be so strong and active.”
The club has 80 members. Anyone interested in learning more about the club or club membership may contact Stangl at 760-788-6116.
Ramona Woman’s Club at 100: Early Days Recalled
By Susan Ruputz
We all know Mrs. W.D. White began the Thimble Club 100 years ago. My December visit with Gertrude Wilson Page on Friday, Dec. 16th, had a purpose. I posed some questions, via email, and Gertrude, collaborating daily by phone with Cynthia Jasper Kunkel, came up with answers. Watching carefully as Gertrude answered my questions I saw so many emotions cross her face, sometimes joy and sometimes sorrow, and she chose her words most carefully. Others’ recollections taught these two, Gertrude, born on D Street in 1918, and Ranchita born Cynthia, three years her senior, something of the earliest days right here.
Women from Ramona, Mesa Grande and Julian, many with English backgrounds, would gather at one-another’s homes for Thimble Club. They’d sew to keep their hands busy, eat lunch together, and visit. Automobiles were still considered ‘early’ and so much of the transportation was by horse drawn buggy. A Mrs. Throckmorton, hair up in a knot, always arrived in a horse ‘n buggy, just as Emily Sawday (Pres.1929-31) was known to drive in from Witch Creek over 80 years ago.
The next year, 1913, with 20 or so charter members of the group, our Town Hall, Adams House, or the Ramona Hotel =, renamed the Kenilworth Inn in 1914, were better gathering places for the larger group. With WWI approaching, sewing continued and then, so did bandage rolling.
In 1917 two lots were donated by Main Street blacksmith Frank Creelman. Construction commenced with plans from Amy Strong’s architect, Elmore Weaver, and a board and bat Ramona Woman’s Club had arrived. Now we had a regular gathering place for civic and social purposes.
Original bylaws set a goal: “to cultivate an interest in intellectual and civic pursuits.” At about this time a 12-year-old Ramona girl had applied to owner Mr. C.A. Seay of the Sentinel to write a town social column. According to Darrell Beck, Seay said, “you find the social news, I’ll print it.” The SD social columnist Eileen Jackson had found her niche, and the Ramona Woman’s Club would now be ‘in the news!’
Mrs. W.D., Mary White was always call ‘Mother’. It was Mother White who started the annual Scholarship Fund with a gift of $1,000. That Fund continues today with two recipients each year.
In 1923 Amy Strong donated a third lot to RWC, then she placed a fountain and a monument on it. The monument’s bronze plaque was dedicated to Mrs. Ida May Kearney. Called ‘Grandma Kearney’ by many, Ida May was the well-respected proprietor of the Kenilworth Inn until her death in 1926. Gertrude Page, Cynthia Kunkel, and most Ramonans alive at that time, remember attending Ida May Kearney’s memorial service held in the adjoining lot by the Fountain where the monument was dedicated to her just three years before.
Now a water tank, like those on many other town lots, was filled weekly and provided another essential to the early clubhouse gatherings. Club luncheons, serving up many fruit salads, needed the help of local school girls
to serve tables and then the women would play bridge. Showing a keen interest, the girls were taught the fine art of ‘bridge’ by clubmembers. Bridge teachers that came to mind were Mrs. Van Eess (Pres. 1924-26, 38-39) and Mrs. Ambler.
Gertrude recalls Mary Kay Kearney Pinkard, Lucille Kunkler Hager, and Gretchen Brown helping with her to serve tables. And then, rather emphatically Gertrude announced, “Everyone wore hats!”
Both Gertrude and Cynthia believe the beautiful wisteria long ago planted in the front gardens and allowed to grow over the shade cover beyond the French doors was from cuttings at the old Seay/Spaulding property out on Penn, just off of Magnolia. It was under this petal draped area that fashion
shows with younger women wearing ‘mothers’ or others older wedding dresses became an annual well attended program.
Out of this activity, and having learned to play bridge, a junior woman’s club developed. Both woman’s groups continued for some years. The younger women met in the evening because of jobs or small children. Programs were similar for each group. Often book reviews, and visiting author’s. It was the wife of former WWI Army surgeon Dr. Steffy, often reviewing.
Gertrude recalled some of the Juniors, beside Cynthia and herself, to be Marge Butters (from Cash Grocery), Otila Woodward Woodall, Guy’s sister (catering), and later Ona Grant Ransom (teacher) who would sing occasionally at meetings. Ever mindful of giving to the community, it was during WWII that bandage rolling was on the agenda, again.
I was getting a bit confused over the names of early presidents listed in our annual yearbook. Gertrude reminded me that Hazel Ransom (Pres. 1933-1935) was Bob’s mother, and Mrs. Stanley Ransom was Leona. Her heirs, upon her death, donated Verlaque House to the Pioneer Historical Society and Museum.
And Helen Gleeson (Pres. 1939-1941) was the mother of Helen Conklin who did so much to strengthen the
Ramona Food and Clothes Closet, now on the northeast corner of 8th and Main Streets … where the Kenilworth Inn once stood.
My friend LaBelle Haeger and I were asked by Mary Elizabeth, Melisse, Ely (Pres. 1977-78, 1983-84) to join the RWC in 1980. We joined when Flower Shows were held annually and presented by the energetic gardening group, the Lady Bugs. Thelma Stansbury (Pres. 1984-86, ’92-’93) and Margaret Morgan would instruct the ladies in thematic flower arranging and the proper preparation for showing a single bloom. What seemed like the whole community would appear very early on a Saturday morning with the most enormous flowering blooms, arrangements in categories, and even entries by children. The bees loved this day here on Main Street and the community, a buzz with anticipation, would pour in to the Clubhouse after the judging and bestowing ribbons …to see the fantastic and beautiful Spring blooms, lilacs, dahalias, roses, and more.
Our original wood floors were carpeted for many years. The French doors had additional screen doors, and the west kitchen wall held a small air-conditioning unit and a swamp cooler was also employed for this hall. Around 1986 Frank Kunkel, Darrel Beck, and a few more husbands labored to stabilize the Clubhouse board and bat walls with plywood sheeting, and now with less air leaking, the ducted Air Conditioning system we so enjoy was installed.
The clubhouse, from its beginnings, has been donated or rented to many local churches, clubs, and organizations. In 1959 a rental fee was $7.50 for a gathering of young married couples’ for a dinner. A town Couples Club held a ‘Soiree in Paris’ with a café theme, and food, followed by entertainment of a ballet, a ‘street scene’ skit, and some French songs, a la Chevalier, were sung by Mel Hill. After a short history of the ballet, the final act was introduced: a group of eight prominent Ramona businessmen doing the Can-Can!
Not to be outdone by the can-can… a local church then rented the clubhouse for a luau and invited the San Diego Samoan church to join them for the evening. The food was delicious but the highlight of this Ramona luau was the pig roasted in a pit where our parking lot now is.
We’ve been hearing about many changes in these past 100 years, but the warmth of the friendship within these walls persists. Friendship, quoting our president, Karen Stangl, “keeps us all moving forward and will sustain us in our time of need,” on our life’s journey.
- Woman’s Club nears centennial year
- Woman’s club starts 2009-10 meetings Oct. 1
- Welcome coffee
- Boys & Girls Club to celebrate next week
- Celebrate soccer arena opening with family fun Saturday
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