Thimble Club marks 100 years

FAIRMONT – Other than the sewing basket and patchwork runner on the table, this week’s 100th anniversary gathering of Rose Lake Thimble Club did not involve any sewing or hand work. Instead, the ladies sang songs, socialized and enjoyed a cake.

“It’s really come full circle,” said Gracie Tenney, current president of the Thimble Club. “We started out as a social club, then we made quilts for the auxiliary at the hospital … Now we just socialize again.”

A brief history on the Thimble Club has been written by Mary Ann Pytleski. The first meeting occurred on the second Wednesday of June 1913, at the home of a Mrs. Albert (Gertie) Hill. The invite to “bring your thimbles and hand work” was sent out to 16 women. All but three showed, and they enjoyed the socializing so much they decided to do it once a month, dubbing themselves the “Rose Lake Thimble Bee.”

From there, the ladies began planning good deeds, such as collecting pennies every time they met to be put into a “sunshine box” to send cards and flowers to members who were ill, and keeping the Rose Lake cemetery clean. They also continued any sewing or handiwork that needed to be done.

As they got more organized and more women became involved, they began charging dues of 5 cents, and began calling themselves the “Thimble Club.” It got to the point the club needed to limit members to 24.

“When World War I started, we rolled bandages to donate,” Pytleski said.

As the years went on, different projects were added and dropped, but in keeping with the Thimble Club theme, each member got a silver thimble.

In the mid-1930s, quilting began taking precedence, and was a fixture until just a few years ago. Members would make quilts for each member of the club, and some have turned up as antiques. One documented story involves an antique quilt entered in the Martin County Fair in 2009 that won reserve champion. The current owner was a descendant of the original owner, but it was through the Thimble Club that the age of the quilt was determined.

Looking through the minutes of past Thimble Club meetings, it is obvious that socializing remained part of the draw. There was talk about which woman brought what types of food (although cake and jello were “taken off the club menu until both are more plentiful” during sugar rationing in World War II. The ban lasted from 1943-1947).

By this time, several of the ladies had sons who were in the war, and cards and scrapbooks were sent to the soldiers.

The club also dealt with surprises. One meeting told of straw-balers arriving, which meant eight extra men to feed, but the ladies rose to the occasion. None of the ladies left until every last dish was dried and put away.

In the 1960s, the ladies began going to project meetings through Martin County Extension, learning about household and money management; clothing and style; making slipcovers and fixing old furniture.

Today’s Thimble Club ladies recently retired the quilting after years of making quilts for the hospital’s auxiliary events.

“We stopped when the quilt auction ended,” Pytleski said.

But the ladies still enjoy their annual events, such as the Christmas party and a July picnic that has become an evening out at a restaurant, instead of preparing food on a hot day. They talk, play cards and dice, and open and close their monthly meeting in song.

At least a few things have stayed the same for the Thimble Club over the past century.

“These are just a few of the many interesting things the Rose Lake Thimble Club has done in its 100 years of existence,” Pytleski concluded. “The club began as a social club whose intent was to bring the community together in friendship, help those in need, and support one another through difficult times. The membership has dwindled to seven members and has returned to social club status, but still maintains the original goals of love and concern for one’s neighbor.”