Times Have Changed, Friendships Remain Strong
Writer / Beth Wilder, Director, Jeffersontown Museum
Times have greatly changed, especially over the past few decades. Lifestyles that used to center around creating an existence practically from scratch have become far more fast-paced, and even though modern technology relieves people of the burdens of doing countless daily chores just to get by, there still seems to be less free time for anything.
Take Homemakers Clubs, for example. In the early 1900s, the clubs offered ladies a chance not only to gather and visit, but to learn and do things to contribute to their communities, as well. Club members looked forward to leaving off their chores for a time and getting to dress up and share the company of others while they attended meetings or the various functions of their clubs.
Local Homemakers Clubs had their start during the early 1900s, when the University of Kentucky created a Cooperative Extension Service in order to connect and educate the State’s rural women through demonstration clubs. This led to an extensive network of women sharing information that would make their domestic lives easier by way of home economics, new technologies and goods, agricultural skills, food conservation and preservation and domestic skills.
There was an official Jeffersontown Homemakers Club that originated in the 1940s. The club presented lessons on tailoring, interior decoration, landscaping, better buying of foods, selecting home appliances, first aid and even fire safety. Learning was not the only item offered at their meetings – luncheons and picnics were much anticipated events. In fact, by 1947, attendance in the Homemakers Club had increased to the point where it was difficult to entertain the club at luncheon, so the members voted to bring sandwiches and let the hostess furnish the beverages.
The ladies put their lessons to good use, creating artistic projects they often entered in the Jefferson County Fair, where they won many awards. The women also put their sewing skills to good use, donating items they made to charitable organizations. The ladies organized fundraisers for Jeffersontown community projects, as well as clean up campaigns for the town.
Although the Homemakers Club was ultimately of great benefit to the town, not enough can be said regarding what a positive and constructive influence it was on the ladies who were members. It afforded them the opportunity to take time out of their busy day and relax with friends, working on projects together that could give them a real sense of accomplishment. After discussing topics that were meant to educate the women on various domestic subjects, the meetings often turned into something very much like an art class, as is evidenced by the following quotes taken from 1940s Jeffersonian newspapers:
“The members left the meeting wearing very professional-looking shoulder and hair bouquets which they had made themselves.”
“Then Mrs. Skaggs’ house was turned into a handicraft shop, with the ladies hammering out trays and ashtrays from copper and aluminum disks.”
“All club members wishing to follow up last month’s lesson on making lampshades will meet at Mrs. Marshall Floore’s.”
“The projects for the coming year will include glove and hat making.”
Of course, as club membership grew, a centralized meeting place became more difficult to accommodate all the ladies at once. By the 1950s, area groups started forming. The groups were named for their locations, such as the North Watterson Trail Homemaker’s Club and the Watterson Trail South Homemaker’s Club. By the 1960s, various neighborhood groups had sprung up, including Charlane Gardens, Charlane Park, Routt Road and Bluegrass Belles. Many of these neighborhood meetings turned into gatherings not only for the homemakers, but for their husbands, as well. While the ladies worked on projects, the men enjoyed the refreshments and each other’s company. In fact, to this day, the Charlane Gardens Homemakers Club still meets, although now their meetings are more along the lines of get-togethers with the neighborhood couples who formed such close bonds decades ago.
Granted, modern technology puts far more information at our fingertips than homemakers had available in the last century, and the current necessity of two-income families prevents a great deal of free time for homeowners to do much outside of tending to their families. But wouldn’t it be nice to develop long-lasting friendships with those who surround us, to get to share some time and ideas, to create things or just to socialize? A community is its people, and when those people are close and can share with one another – their time, if nothing else – then they might find they have a great deal in common and enjoy one another’s company. And who knows what great things might be accomplished just by sharing ideas and working together.